Mindfulness and Gratitude: Expectations

Mindful Monday

Words for a Mindful Moment with the Breath

“Gorgeous, amazing things come into our lives when we are paying attention: mangoes, grandnieces, Bach, ponds. This happens more often when we have as little expectation as possible. If you say, “Well, that’s pretty much what I thought I’d see,” you are in trouble…. Astonishing material and revelation appear in our lives all the time. Let it be. Unto us, so much is given. We just have to be open for business.”

Anne Lamott, Help Thanks Wow

Life can be all about how we manage our expectations.

My Moments of Gratitude

As the heat index pushed 100 last week, we sought indoor adventures for our kids. We decided one morning to take the kids to Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America.

It was an unexpected adventure for the kids. We told them where we were going just a few minutes before we left. No time for Clark Griswold-type expectations to build up about the amazing family trip to the amusement park.

But I did talk with my kids about our expectations for their behavior: holding our hands, not whining, and listening to mom and dad. And except for one minor meltdown when my first-percentile-for-height four-year-old couldn’t go on one of the rides with his big sister, my children behaved wonderfully. I am thankful I remembered to share my expectations for their behavior before the adventure began.

Merry go round

{We learned this lesson the hard way a few weeks ago, when, taking our son to his first Twins game, we realized his expectation was that, since he had a Twins shirt on (as in the above photo), he would be playing in the game. Four innings of restraining him in his seat felt like a double-header.}


That same day, we experienced the beauty of not knowing what to expect, and being wowed.

When it was time for lunch, we headed to the American Girl Bistro. We had never been there before, so I had no expectations beyond “Kids Eat Free.”

The hostess promptly gave my daughter a loaner American Girl doll, and even gave my son a boy doll. They had these adorable little highchairs so the dolls could sit at the table with us. My children were thrilled! And having doll-buddies at the table for them to feed is a great way to keep kids occupied while eating out:

American girl

American girl

After we were seated, our server told us there was a game we could play in this cute little box.

American girl game

The box contained cards with conversation starters, which my daughter was happy to ask us. Which job would you never like to have? Mine: exterminator. My husband’s: snake wrangler. My daughter’s: to work at Target.

And then my four-year-old son shocked us by telling us the job he never wants: to fight in a war. Wow.

With no pre-planned schedule or outlandish expectations about our day, we had a family outing with great {and deep} conversation, thrilling rides, and lovely memories.

I am thankful for a meaningful summer adventure.


My husband and I travelled to Las Vegas this past weekend for the College Board’s Advanced Placement National Conference {and, coincidentally, our wedding anniversary ~ truly, this is how nerds celebrate love}.

After leaving our children in the wonderful care of grandma and grandpa, I shifted my focus from mothering, blogging, and the Buddha, to teaching and learning. And then I stepped off the plane and saw….

Vegas Buddha

And then right by the casino in the hotel I ran into….

Vegas Buddha

And shopping for souvenirs for my children, I encountered…

Vegas Buddha

Even listening to a presentation on engaging students with textual and visual historical sources, I received a copy of a lesson about…

Buddha lesson

Has the Buddha always been everywhere, but now I’m just open for business? I think so…

Having “little expectation” is not the same as having “low expectations.” It’s about paying attention, seeing the “astonishing material” in the world, and letting ourselves be “wowed.”

I’m thankful for the joy of approaching the world with little expectation

For the little unexpected things that bring a smile, like the cup of coffee prepared for me and brought to me in bed in the morning by room service…


For pretending, for just a little moment, that I really WAS in Venice…


For the lovely reminders hanging from the gorgeous entryway of our hotel…



On our last night in Vegas, my husband had the expectation that we would eat at the hotel. We had been sitting in the hotel in conference sessions all day ~ we hadn’t even stepped outside once! I convinced my husband to let go of his expectation of eating in the fake, indoor version of Piazza San Marco.

I googled “best restaurants in Vegas,” and found one restaurant that appeared on multiple lists. Therefore, it clearly was THE best restaurant in Vegas.

And we had the joy of having all our expectations met.

The restaurant was gorgeous, quiet, and intimate. Our server, delightful. The food, fantastic!

Mushroom risotto…

mushroom risotto

Seared scallops…


{A main course so delicious I forgot to take a picture!}

Divine dessert with a lovely message from the chef…


My husband rated it the second-best meal he’s ever eaten, second only to a meal we enjoyed eleven years ago on our honeymoon, in the Cinque Terra, overlooking the Italian Riviera.

11th anniversary

I am thankful for a lovely dinner, and, most importantly, 11 wonderful years with my dear friend and husband, Todd.

And I am especially grateful for my parents, for babysitting for 57 straight hours so that Todd and I could enjoy our first trip together, without children, in almost seven years.

To little expectation, high expectations, adjusting our expectations, and the joy when all our expectations are met!

What are YOU thankful for this week?

Monday sig

Sarah Rudell Beach
Follow Sarah

Sarah Rudell Beach

Sarah is a writer, teacher, and mother. At Left Brain Buddha, she writes about her journey to live and parent mindfully, joyfully, and thought-fully in her left-brain analytical life. When not working, she enjoys dancing, reading, and hanging out with her little Buddhas.
Sarah Rudell Beach
Follow Sarah

Latest posts by Sarah Rudell Beach (see all)

featured on…


left brain buddha in your inbox

Join over 6000 subscribers!


  1. says

    I loved this post, Sarah. I’ll definitely take the advice on setting expectations when taking the kids somewhere. I don’t think I’ve been, at least consciously, doing that. I LOVED The conversation box idea at the American Girl Cafe. I think I am actually going to borrow this to create something like that at home. I am not very crafty, but I’m sure I can find a box and think of some questions to keep my own 4-year-old entertained during dinner. I loved this post. It was ideal for a Monday morning (well, mid-day) inspiration!
    Katia recently posted…Kanye Vs. Paparazzi – Is He Nuts Or Just a Sleep Deprived Dad?My Profile

    • Sarah says

      I know, I totally want to do a box like that too! It’s always those simple ideas that would never occur to us! :)

share your thoughts!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge