Living With Intentions, But Not Expectations

Find the sweet spot betwen intending the best outcome, but not obsessing over it

There’s a fine balance you need to strike along the personal growth journey that I see many people get wrong. You want to achieve as much as you can, but avoid creating a forcing current in your life.

It’s easy to develop an obsession with your growth where the desire to evolve degrades into the need to do better. On the other hand, you can carry yourself through life without any goals, purpose, or ambition, which isn’t in your best interest either.

Having no intentions leads to a stagnant, unfulfilling life while overshooting leads to stress, worry, and burnout.

I’ve found that living with intentions but also allowing myself to go with the flow is a good balance to strike. I’m not stressed when things don’t go to plan, because my life journey can’t be anticipated. However, I’m always nudging towards an overarching mission in life which acts as my anchor.

That overarching mission may or may not fruit. I don’t know when life is going to jerk me in a different direction, and how sudden it’s going to be. All I know is that it will.

So why fight against life when it takes me down Path B rather than Path A?

Ultimately I have no say, but as long as I have a deeper purpose steering me through the shifting currents, I feel happy. Living with intentions but not expectations is an act of accepting your life condition – But navigating forward. To understand why nonresistance plays a role in your intentions, read the article below:

Finding the fine balance between setting intentions and releasing expectations is what I want to address in this article. Getting this right can have a transformative impact on your life journey, which is why it’s important to get right.

What does it mean to have intentions?

Setting intentions

Intentions act as the steering wheel for your life. They’re the goals you want to achieve, and pertain to the deeper reasoning of why you want to achieve these goals.

As your intentions give you a sense of purpose, they are an important component of fulfillment which you can read about here:

Your intentions are like the guiding principles of your life. They act as your internal compass pointing you in a particular direction and are deeply entwined with your values.

For example, some of my intentions revolve around living a life integral to personal and spiritual growth. Because I hold this intention so closely, I’ve spent many years exploring different cultures and traditions, different philosophies and modalities.

My intentions have set the coursework in my life, and illuminated the path I need to walk. Without intending to become a better person, I wouldn’t have carved a life path allowing me to actualize this journey.

A lack of intentions can result in stagnation because you have no reason to do better.

Some intentions that are good to hold to your heart include:

  • The intention to be the best person you can be: Live your life striving for growth and self-betterment
  • The intention to do good in the world: Do your best to live a life you can be proud of
  • The intention to be of service: Intend to help people, to heal, inspire, encourage, and grow to achieve a deeper sense of fulfillment in life
  • The intention to learn: Spend your life learning as much as you can, and becoming the wisest person you can

Are intentions the same as a purpose?

Your intentions and purpose overlap, but there are nuanced differences.

Let me explain.

A purpose implies something set in stone. If you have a purpose, there may not be any conscious decision, and you may not even be aware of it. Intentions imply that there is a choice. You are consciously seeking something in life. You have principles to consciously adhere to, and a deeper motive driving your actions.

Can intentions become expectations?

Strong intentions with no counterbalance can be destructive. Imagine driving a car without breaks. You’re bound to crash, rather than if you just slowed down a little and navigated yourself more carefully.

All gas and no break leads to resistance. Once you start forcing your life in a certain direction, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

Even if you do finally get to your goals, can you say you’ve enjoyed the process? What happens when you trade the joy of your life to achieve something that never fruits?

You might feel like you’ve wasted your opportunity here. Therefore, balance is crucial. It’s important to have intentions, but don’t be so attached to the result that you end up trading your life for it.

Are expectations helpful?

Man expecting likes on social media

Expectations are not helpful. Sometimes they might drive people to achieve more by believing that they will get what they want. But for the most part, having expectations doesn’t serve you.

That’s not to say you can’t work hard towards what you want, because you should. But it’s important not to be too attached to the result. You can learn more about this in the article below:

Letting go of the result means having some flexibility, and allowing your life to bring you in unexpected directions. Life is not a predictable journey. If you’re too stubborn with your intentions, you’re going to miss out on new opportunities due to your tunnel vision.

If you reject change, you’re also rejecting the evolution of your life journey. Just think about it. Is your life right now what you expected five years ago?

Ten years ago?

If you’re like most people, probably not.

Who knows, maybe life will bring you in a direction that’s much more aligned with your true path than what you originally thought.

So keep an open mind.

Intentions vs expectations

Let’s look at the difference between having intentions and having expectations below:


Setting intentions provides a framework for living with purpose, mindfulness and authenticity – Leading to a more meaningful and fulfilling life. Intentions are beneficial for the following reasons:


While expectations can provide motivation, it’s essential to approach them with awareness to mitigate their potential negative consequences. Expectations are not good for you because:

How to live without expectations

Living without expectations doesn’t mean you can’t set your eyes on goals and hope to achieve them. You just want to be careful not to become too attached to the outcome by realizing it may fruit in unexpected ways.

To stop expecting things in life, here are some things to do:

  • Focus on the process: Focus on the process rather than the outcome.
  • Don’t be entitled: You need to earn your keep in life, nothing is given for free without there being some sort of energetic reciprocity.
  • Be humble: Learn to be more humble about your life situation, and think through a lens that you don’t have anything to prove.
  • Maintain reasonable goals: It’s good to be ambitious but set realistic goals to gradually move forward.
  • Avoid self-comparison: Comparing yourself to others can cause feelings of scarcity. Acknowledge that everyone is on a different journey, and focus on yours.
  • Be more flexible: Allow yourself to take unexpected new opportunities and possibilities
  • Have some resilience: If things don’t go to plan, look for other creative routes to step in a better direction

Intentions vs expectations in a relationship

Seeking a loving partner is something we all want – But that desire for love can be corrupted by expectations.

Don’t expect your partner to be a certain way because it will only put strain on the relationship. Expecting your partner to meet the standards you set may cause your partner self-worth issues if they don’t meet these expectations. It may also lead to your disappointment when true love should be unconditional.

Instead of casting expectations on your partner, encourage them to grow as a person, as you should be growing too. Lead by example and encourage them to become their best self. This is what creates a fulfilling relationship – Two people growing together but expecting nothing of one another.

Center yourself around being more genuine in your relationships and give without expecting

When you stop having expectations in a relationship, you’re bound to have a much more wholesome and fulfilling relationship.

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