5 Ways to Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations

I’m sitting empty-handed at the sandwich shop with my friends. We’re waiting on our names to be called for our food orders.

But in the meantime, I hear a phone go off with a familiar ring tone. It’s the text sound I use for someone I love, but from whom I haven’t heard from in awhile.

I catch my breath. I’m finally getting the text I’ve been waiting for!

I pull the phone from my back pocket to read the text. . . .

5 Ways to Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations

This month for my One Word RELEASE, I’ve been working on releasing unrealistic expectations.

How do we let go of unrealistic expectations?


The first step is to become aware of the expectations we have. It’s easier said than done, I know. We often don’t realize that we are expecting something until we don’t get it when, where, and how we thought we would.

But we can’t intentionally release an expectation until we realize we’re holding it.


Secondly, once we see our expectations, we need to question them. Would someone else in our situation consider this normal? Do these expectations feel too grandiose even to us? Have past experiences proven these outcomes are likely?

Taking a closer look at our expectations helps us discern which ones need adjusting.


If we discover we’re holding hope for the perfect solution to our circumstance, that’s a red flag. That might be the first expectation we need to release. Perfection in this world is a rare occurrence.

Be willing to accept and appreciate a Plan B solution as a viable alternative.


We often forget what we can control and what we can’t. Recognizing the limits we’re working under can help us move our expectations to a more realistic place.

Setting healthy boundaries for our expectations increases our capacity for contentment regardless of what happens next.


Sometimes the wildest things do happen. It is possible to be surprised above our expectations. But a more reasonable goal is to be flexible as events unfold. This mantra might be appropriate: “Whatever happens, happens. Whatever doesn’t happen, doesn’t happen.”

Be willing to deal with the actual results either way.

A Dose of Realism

Back at the sandwich shop, I casually look at my phone, even though my heart is pounding.

But the screen is still black. No message.

It wasn’t my phone that pinged. It was someone else’s.

The cashier up front now calls my name. My food is ready. But I no longer have an appetite.

My expectations got me again.

While it’s normal and healthy to get our hopes up about things, it’s not beneficial to cling too tightly to results out of our control.

I gently unclench my fingers from my phone. I put it back in my pocket.

This situation is out of my hands.

Release the need for control. Release the need for clarity. Release the need for certainty.

Release the expectation for the text I’m longing for.

Hold on to what I do know—to who I know—and ask God again for wisdom, for grace, for compassion.

God gives those gifts generously. Those are expectations I need never release.

Featured Post

Looking at expectations from another angle, Deborah reminds us that even when we have unmet expectations from prayer, we can remember that God is still with us, holding us with tender lovingkindness, light, and love.

Read all of Deborah’s post at her blog, then link up your own blog posts below.

Resting in the Faith

Do you consider yourself an optimist, a pessimist, or a realist about your expectations? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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14 thoughts on “5 Ways to Let Go of Unrealistic Expectations

  1. Deborah Rutherford

    Hi Lisa, Oh I know these feelings of expectation so well. Especially when we are waiting for a loved one. And I love that God generously gives us the grace and wisdom we need for times as these. Thank you for sharing “Resting in Faith.” I have the button graphic up but I didn’t link it yet – learning these new things. Thank you again.

  2. Jerralea

    Oh, Lisa, I was so hoping your call was the one your heart longed for! But I understand about releasing expectations. I think we all struggle with it. But the great thing, often God has things planned for us that are greater than our expectations.

  3. Donna

    I’m sorry Lisa. I can honestly say I know how you feel. I’ve been waiting for “that” text for over 3 years.
    One of my favorite quotes is “Expectations are simply disappointments waiting to happen”. And when you think about it, that is too often the case.
    I noticed you used the word “hope” in that it’s healthy and normal to get our “hopes” up. I think a good place to land is knowing the difference between hope and expectations. Expectations, are rigid and imply we get what we want, when we want it, and when we don’t, well, we’re disappointed, and struggle accepting reality.
    Hope on the other hand, is not vested in a controlled outcome, but implies a positive desire for a particular outcome. When that outcome is not realized, we more easily embrace the reality and live to hope another day.

  4. Tea With Jennifer

    I find faith & our expectations of a situation are so different aren’t they Lisa!

    Faith is, we hope for what we do not see, placing it all in God’s hands & in His timing.

    Where our expectations place a timing upon what ‘we’ want to see happen (often leaving God’s timing & way of doing it out of the equation).

    Waiting is the hardest thing for us to do.
    But I’ve found that’s when God works best when we wait with ‘expectant faith’ that His Will will to be done in His timing.
    Bless you this Easter,

  5. David

    Gosh, how can pixels on a screen raise such emotion and sympathy? I am too fast, I categorise and draw lines and forget. Deep grief but it has gone already. Maybe I’ll be surprised by joy. The Lord is the harmoniser.

    Elsewhere though I am prey to my expectations, looking in every spare moment, maybe someone has said “hello”, … your five ways are a good way to welcome that expectation and embrace and explore it (rather than be led by it).

    Oi! Some of your phrases are so telling! ❤️

  6. Lisa Blair

    I’m sad that your loved one chose not to “show up” and agree with you in prayer for continued grace as you release them into His care, then show them love and compassion in every future interaction.

  7. Corinne Rodrigues

    Like you said, it’s okay to be hopeful, necessary, even, but having expectations especially from other people can lead to so many problems.
    Learning to release our tight hold on outcomes is the only way forward. Thank you for the reminder, Lisa.

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