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Let Go of Control by Moderating Your Expectations


Many of us recognize the benefits of letting go of control and have a strong desire to do so, but struggle with it.  That’s perfectly understandable when you consider that we have been raised and have always lived in a control based world.  After all, as young children weren’t we controlled by our parents? By our teachers? And at times even by our religious leaders?  This is not to say that control is not warranted in many situations, but simply that when we have been so immersed in it throughout our lives, we feel uncomfortable and insecure without it.

It thus is a tremendous challenge to begin letting go of control—particularly with those matters and concerns that are most important to us. (Ironically, it is those areas in which losing control would be most beneficial!) As I stated in my introductory blog post, a primary reason for this blog is to provide (and engage in an intercourse about) effective tools and tips for letting go of control.  So let’s start with the first one:

Moderate Your Expectations.

High Expectations Fuel Controlling Actions

We all have expectations.  They are a natural part of our desire for a better and more content life.   We expect our friends and family to act kindly and responsibly toward us and others.  We expect our work to provide us with  certain security and benefits.  We expect our children to perform well in school; our teachers to be competent; and our leaders to govern fairly.  And so on.

The problem arises when our expectations become unrealistically high.  High expectations fuel controlling actions.  When we expect too much of people and things, it inevitably leads to disappointment followed by control actions.  When people don’t act or respond the way we want or expect them to, we try hard to change them.  We become critical, judgmental, demanding—even threatening.

High expectations impact all areas of our lives: work, family, friendships, sports, performance, to name a few key ones.  I will try to address these areas in future posts, but for now let’s consider the impact of control on our creativity.   When you have high expectations about a creative work or piece, whether it be a painting, a music composition, a script—-even cooking a gourmet meal—it induces you to over think, become anxious, and try too hard for perfection.  These types of controlling actions severely obstruct the creative process.  Things stop jelling and flowing naturally, you stop acting intuitively, and your piece suffers.  As a painter, I have had many paintings that started out great, after which I raised my expectations, only to have them falter as I pressed to maintain their high level.

Set Realistic Expectations

Consequently, you need to set realistic goals and expectations  if you wish to reduce the urge to control.  Doing so goes a long way toward saving you and those around you from undue pressure, demands, and stress.  Similarly, do not expect too much of yourself, either.  When you do, you will start pressing and forcing the action, thereby disrupting the natural flow of events.

One effective way to set realistic expectations is simply to ask yourself whether your perceived need or desire is that important in the overall scheme of things.  Most of the time it is not. It is also helpful to keep reminding ourselves that life (and thus people, occurrences and events) is constantly moving, shifting, and ebbing and flowing, and hence it is not wise to rely too much on people acting or things turning out the way we would like.

Finding Your Hidden Treasures

I would like to close with a short passage from my forthcoming book, Losing Control, Finding Serenity:

“I carry in my wallet a wise statement from a Chinese fortune cookie I opened many years ago.  It reads, ‘You will find hidden treasures where least expected.’ Think about that for a moment.  If you expect less, you control less—and find more.  Conversely, when you expect more, you control more—and find less.”

In the meantime,

Let It Go–and Accept “What Is!”


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  • lindsay Bendoni
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 12:30 am

    I always would expect things from my father. Whether it was a phone call, bday card, “i love you”, when we hung up the phone, but it never happened! If he came into town, I would expect him to call me, and want to see me. When these things did not happen, I was shattered! What did I do wrong? Why does he not want to be with me? How could he love his other family more? So many questions came up, and I placed so much blame on myself. Until one day, I saw my dad for who he was, and excepted his shortcomings! I began not to “EXPECT”….I lowered my expectations each time. I almost would lower them so much, that when he did something, I would be shocked by it! Somehow, I was able to let go of all the anger….And all the things he was not doing, somehow started to happen! Bday cards, Lunch dates when he’s in town, and phone calls quite often. I’m not expecting anything from him. Whatever I get, I love!

  • Post Author
    Daniel A. Miller
    Posted November 14, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Thank you Lindsay for the enlightening share. I’ve experienced similar results when I stop expecting too much of people. Even with my children! My sense of it is that when we stop expecting, it changes the dynamic of the relationship. It releases the pressure that others may instinctively be feeling, thereby freeing them to be more who they are.

    You have also touched on another important decontrol tool: acceptance. That will be the subject of a future post.



  • Jessica Eldenstjärna
    Posted November 20, 2010 at 8:16 am

    Hi Danny!
    Thank you for your nice comments on my blog, and I am as glad you found “my place” as I’m glad I found “yours”. Lowering expectations is indeed a key to happiness, peace and creativity, and that doesn’t mean we have to accept others to hurt us on purpose (even here one has to put into perspective if one is really being hurt, or just percieving it as such), but in just letting go of “should’s”, everything has a more natural flow and every situation becomes what it IS instead of what it ISN’T. Understanding this has taken a lot of grief out of my life, but I still sometimes have to remind myself once in a while. 🙂

    Looking forward to your book!
    Nice to “meet” you
    Greetings Jessica

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  • Margaret
    Posted March 29, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Expectations have ruined countless intimate relationships I have had. I start out being fun and easy-going, but once the relationship begins to build, I start to expect a certain level of communication, contact and time together – much like your first commenter with her father. I almost don’t know I am doing it. I hear the person say they feel pressure and like everything has to be scheduled yet, I continue. It is horrible and not the way I want to be. I understand I need to let go, I just don’t seem to know how to do it. I want to repair my last relationship and I want to change for me. I just purchased your book and will read it. Help!

    • Danny Miller
      Posted April 3, 2012 at 12:29 pm

      Hello Margaret,

      First, let me acknowledge your awareness of the problem and desire to change how you deal with your relationship expectations. That is a solid start. Two suggestions come to mind. One is not to place too much emphasis on the importance of an intimate relationship in your life. That may help with the expectation of wanting too much contact and time together, which puts pressure on the other person. I believe true contentment comes primarily through us/you, and not others. Hence, focus on and do the things that bring you joy and contentment outside of the relationship.

      The other is to find ways to become aware earlier of when you are expecting too much in the relationship so that you can moderate your expectations.
      Look for the signs, the comments, the reactions, the discomforts, and the like.

      Thank you for buying my book. The chapter entitled “Losing Love Control: Finding Romance and Intimacy” offers other suggestions and tools.

      Wishing you success,


  • Sanjay Deorari
    Posted December 27, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    That was really a nice article Danny. I am also facing the same problem with my loved ones. I developed a very high level of expectations from them, thinking that whatever I suggests or do for them is the best. But many times they did whatever they wanted it to be in their own way, even if they faced pain and hardships.

    And after a long time now I am able to understand where I was doing wrong and that I should change myself. I have no right to give any suggestions to anyone, I love them intimately and always wants them to be happy is a different aspect, and it really doesn’t matters at all. Every body has their own life.

    It’s all really complicated, The best thing we can do is to release ourself from our attachment to any outcome that is based on someone else’s actions or inactions!. That way we can avoid negativity.

    • Post Author
      Daniel A. Miller
      Posted December 30, 2012 at 5:33 pm

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Sanjay, and I agree fully with your realizations. It is very difficult to see loved ones face ongoing pain and hardships. Yet,
      it is often that very pain and suffering that eventually bring about positive changes in their lives, and we can best serve them by being loving and supportive and focusing on improving our own shortcomings.

  • George A. Doria
    Posted May 8, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    Hello Danny,

    Thank you for sharing this blog I learned a lot.. God Bless You always and please continue to inspire people like me..thank you so much…

    • Post Author
      Daniel A. Miller
      Posted May 9, 2013 at 1:26 pm

      Thank you for you kind words George. Sentiments like yours encourages me to continue.


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