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Hello everyone,
Happy Sunday. This week, I'm sharing with you a new theme for my writing:


(inspired from a line by the late Gregory Bateson)

My hope, hopefully, is as obvious as the name: to share the differences that have made a difference in my life, which hopefully will help you too.
A lot of hope, I know. Which is why, for the opening issue, we will visit the first difference: between expectation and hope.

I expect you give it a read, and hope you find it useful and even life-changing too,

p/s: Hoping to get some important personal work done and getting disappointed when the expectation of how much you can get done is not met? Join me in the daily Write & Craft session here and find the time here. We will cheer each other on for the hope to become true.


Sharing is sprouting.
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Expectation & Hope

What is the difference between hoping and expecting? - Quora

To expect something is to tie our state of being on an external event. It's the self-made contract "I will not be contented until this happens" (or won't happen, in the case of a negative expectation).
Example: I expect you to show up for the meeting, and when you don't, I will not be contented. I will be upset or sad or thrown off.
You expect that the flight won't be cancelled, and when it is, you are really upset.

A few notes on expectation:
First, it is not bad. If expectation sounds all so serious and heavy, remember that it is also very grounding. Without it, good luck getting by with normal life.
Expectation has a bad rap in the spiritual circle because of the common misunderstanding of the common Buddhist teaching "desire leads to suffering."
As my friend Romeo Steven wisely quips on wholesome desire vs craving, which conveniently maps to hope & expectation 
If you examine a desire closely, wholesomeness shows up as nonspecific in time or outcome. Eg it might be nice to have lunch with this friend, maybe I will ping them. If it doesn't happen today, that's fine. If it doesn't wind up happening with this specific friend but some other plan evolves out of the intention that's fine. You can just directly notice that there is little to no suffering associated with this sort of open intention for something nice to happen.

Craving is usually highly specific and associated with negative feelings and sensations. If you examine a compulsive craving it feels like 'I am going to feel bad until I get this specific thing.' Now, what would our response be if this part of ourselves were an external person? What if a friend or roommate came and informed us that they were going to make us miserable until we got them something? We'd immediately recognize this as highly toxic.

What it refers is not to have no desire, but to relax and chill about whether the outcome goes our way.

Second, "having no expectation" rarely works as an approach, and oftentimes a clever self-deception.
It is very often a mask for hurt or fear of disappointment. There is no way to go through life without being hurt, unless you don't care about anything, which is not really living. "Having no expectation" is too glib of an answer, an easy way out for the spiritual athlete but no practical for the genuinely human.
There is no way to push the hurt aside. In the words of Beatrice Chestnut, "the only way out of suffering is through it."
I remember a conversation a friend to reflect on our college experience before we graduated. He struggled through college and several times have thought of transferring out.
I asked him "What did you expect when you first arrived at college?"
"Nah, I didn't have that much expectation." He dismissed.
"Then why do you seem so unsatisfied about it now?" I probed.
He stayed silent.
Sometimes we don't know our own expectation. Other times we don't dare to find out, only until reality hit and we are forced to confront it.
It's very tempting to say "I don't have expectation" out of fear of disappointment. I did that often enough until one point when I realized how it has limited my experience of life. Don't dare to expect, therefore don't dare to do anything.
Is this possible to not have expectation? Maybe. Maybe saints and the enlightened ones do, and they are humans too.
Would you prefer not having it? Only you can tell.
The cost of having expectation is the possibility of disappointment.
A simple example in the midst of so many things happening in the world right now: I was expecting to meet with someone for our Write & Craft session because that will help with my focus and more importantly I want to be with their presence.
They didn't show up. That stung.
No matter how much I told myself "nah, it doesn't matter", the sting was there.
It surprised me to be that affected by the no-show, but I was.
It was an expectation, and I honor it.
Sure, it might be my own stuff to deal with. I also let the other person know that I was feeling disappointed and requested if they could let me know in advance.
(later in the week, I was on the other side of missing an appointment, and she let me know how it stung her too. Boy did I reach out to apologize.)
It's much better to name our expectation and use that to calibrate with reality. The late Peter Drucker gives an excellent advice in his classic essay, Managing Oneself"

Whenever you make a decision or take any action write down what you expect will happen. Then, 9 to 12 months later compare the actual results (what actually happened) with your expectations that you wrote down. Once you’ve done this you need to look for patterns by asking the following questions: What results are you skilled at generating? What abilities do you need to enhance to get the results you want? What unproductive habits are preventing you from creating the outcomes you desire?

This exercise has worked wondered in my own life and I highly recommend it. The cost of not owning up to our expectation is a life not well lived.


You may notice that expectation is kind of serious. The trick to offset the seriousness of expectation is to remember that besides expectation, there is also hope.
To hope for something is to simply enjoy the pleasure of that possibility. I learned this from Michael Neill's excellent book, "Supercoach". In his words: "Hope isn’t a promise that something you want will happen; it’s an invitation to enjoy the possibility of what you want while you and life negotiate the eventual outcome."

Hope is light, fun, enjoyable. Just that you hope for something doesn't mean that it will happen, but that's not the point. It doesn't have to happen. And it will be lovely to.
When you ask people about their hopes and dreams, their eyes light up, and you will enjoy a beautiful connection.

I didn't appreciate the power of hope until recently, when I began to explore my own troubled relationship with pleasure. Long story short, I didn't allow myself to enjoy life that much, from simple joys to big achievements. I'd brush them off "Nah, no biggie" and get to work again.

The trickiest part is to notice when hope solidifies expectation and when expectation is relaxed into hope. It helps not to confused to the two.

How do you know the difference?
Notice the thought of something you want: does it feel light, uplifting, expanding or grounded, strong and contracting in you? The former is likely hope while the latter is expectation. We need both, even though I definitely prefer more hope. I'd go as far to say that you can live without expectation, but not without hope.

Here is another way to apply this distinction. When I play a game I like, do I hope to win? Hell yes. Do I expect to win? Probably not. Does it matter? No. What matters is that I'm in the game.

Too often, we censor ourselves from hope, fearing that it is too much, too impractical or too selfish. We make up all kind of excuses to hide away from what we most hope for. Just picture some happy-go-lucky Pollyanna you know (hopefully not me, ha) and imagine the common judgments "nah, just a dreamer" or "so impractical".
Since noticing my own judgment against hope, I've caught myself almost squashing other people's hope many times. Instead of doing that, now I try to point them to the difference between expectation and hope.

"Hope is the last thing to die", as the German proverb goes. The good news is that whether or not we acknowledge it, hope is still there somewhere in the dark recesses of our psyche, waiting to be excavated. If you look deeply, you will find it too.

Where do you begin the looking?
One place to begin is from this common phrase "Follow Your Bliss".
It came from Joseph Campbell, the renowned mythologist of the Hero's Journey, a universal narrative structure behind most stories. Many people have criticized him that this phrase has legitimized irresponsible pleasure-seeking behaviors without any capacity for grounded practical actions.
Later in his life, he regretted that he should have instead said "Follow your blisters". I think he meant that if we were truly to folow our bliss, we will no doubt walk on a long and challenging road that will blister your feet. It's not always an easy ride or sensory pleasures, but boy the whole thing is so worthwhile. What's most blissful is the discovery and the deepening of the love and hope that will carry us through.

So you look for hope through what sometimes feels like pleasure and other times blistering hurt.
Indeed, if you choose to go for the excavation of a well buried hope, you may notice how may touch a layer of hurt at first. Once you acknowledge it, you will also notice that it will keep hurting until you move towards the direction of its fulfillment.

Unlike the sting of disappointment from an unmet expectation, unacknowledged hope feels like a subtle sense of unease as if something is missing. It is like when you go out of the house with a hunch that you might have forgotten something.

It is sad to imagine how we can go out into life forgetting hope. It is even sadder to see how it is already the case for many.

Yet there is hope. No matter how much times we forget it, hope will still be there, never too far away once we begin to look. The human spirit is resilient, whether it is in dire circumstances like concentration camp or in simple matters like looking for a key you forget somewhere in the room.

A real (and silly) example: a lost key.

A few hours after writing this essay, I wanted to go out but couldn’t find my own house key & motorbike key. I searched for it for more than an hours and ran into despair - motorbike key is hard to replace. I finally gave up, went out for dinner, went to sleep, prepared for the messy process of getting the locksmith. I have let go of the expectation to find it, but somewhere I still had hope. While already preparing for the worst, I enjoyed the possibility that it could be found.
The next morning, as I contemplated on hope again, I found myself digging into the gap behind the drawer where I put my laptop on. I checked it last night, but just in case... I didn’t see anything at first, but somehow something itched me to look again, pulling the drawer out more. And I caught a silver lining of my key chain...

Understanding the nuanced difference has changed my life. I am learning to allow myself to have hope and enjoy that sense of hopefulness without being too bogged down by whether that will happen.

My hope is that this writing makes a difference for you. I really enjoy that possibility when I hit this Send button. Whether or not it has made a difference, well, you let me know.

I hope you remember hope.

p/s: Write back to me a hope you have for your life that you are allowing to exist? I’d love to hear. You already know one of my hope as I wrote a few sentences above.



  • “Happiness and a meaningful life come from making differences. But this is the most important rule to follow: always make the differences you can make, not the differences you would prefer to make but can’t. — Lyndon Duke
    • A beautiful reminder to be present with what we, do what we can, hope for the best and let the expectation go. I think it's also good for business: instead of giving the customer what we want, check if they may want!
  • "Do not work for money. Work for love and light and then allow money in. Until the money flows, work for alternative currency such as relationships and energy." - Graham Berchart
    • Such a great reminder. This is not even about idealistic "Follow Your Passion and the monies will come". It's the recognition of a deeper truth: that "currency" - which shares root with the word "current" - has many forms. It's being open to see beyond one fixed definition.

Listening & Watching

  • How to Help a Difficult Person? 4 mins talk by Jordan Peterson on a difficult question.
    • Again, a reminder to know the difference between expectation (to be able to help) and hope (that it could get better)


A prayer for you this week, inspired by Francis Briers of the Wisdom Fool school
"May you remember the full heart to say Hello to what comes and Goodbye to what leaves, in every moment". 

May you be well,

p/s: Would you like some free coaching from me? I'm recording for a podcast for my coaching study and would love to feature you in it as a way to learn and share with other people who don't get a chance. You can watch an example episode here.  Do reach out by a quick email "Hey I'm interested" You can read more here

Copyright © Enzymes For Thoughts. Little rights reserved. Your only responsibility is to compost these ideas, turn them into fertilizer to grow beautiful things :-)

Please write back to me sometimes. I really appreciate it.

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