This week, I ran into the maintenance guy at our apartment complex. He was the happiest I had ever seen him, Jim had recently returned from his honeymoon, so naturally I commented that married life must be treating him well. He agreed, and told me they are expecting a baby daughter in October.
After the standard congratulations chit-chat, Jim told me they had been trying to become pregnant for two years, and had gone through multiple IVF treatments. But, with the wedding and everything, his wife had put the idea on hold for a while.
“I think she just stopped wanting it so bad, that it happened,” Jim remarked.
A few days later, my friend Charlie told me he had won three new projects in one week, that added up to the total he had been looking for from one client. Why? Because he finally resigned himself to the fact that he might have to wait a while for that one big client, gave up obsessing about it, and was now open to smaller ones.
“The projects were smaller, so I didn’t care if I didn’t get them. I wasn’t trying to impress them, or ‘wow’ them. It’s so ironic that when you stop wanting, that’s when you get it,” he said.
While this phenomenon may seem ironic on its surface, there’s actually some interesting science behind the cause and effect of releasing expectations, and the signs point to stress and how it manifests in our bodies and to the outside world. Research tells us that seemingly healthy women with fertility trouble tend to have high levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood; that’s the fight or flight stress hormone. Additionally, emotional stress (depression or low self-esteem) also seems to reduce sperm counts in men. In one study, couples who actively worked to reduce their stress were 30 percent more likely to find themselves pregnant after six months.
High levels of cortisol can manifest as anxiety, worry, fear, desperation, low self-esteem, depression, and more. Charlie’s high stress levels were transmitted through his words and body language to potential clients, in the form of signals like desperation and neediness. When he relaxed around the experience of gaining a new client, those signals ceased and clients could finally connect with the real person underneath.
The effect that stress hormone cortisol has on our bodies, is powerful and often under-appreciated. A friend of mine who recently gave up caffeine in order to get her cortisol levels back to normal, was told she looked more calm and relaxed. She affirmed that she while her life was still crazy busy, she didn’t fell so stressed out about it as much; and apparently it showed.
In coaching we talk a lot about setting powerful intentions, by visualizing and focusing on the experience you want to create in your life. Sometimes, though, when we feel we desperately need something, the intention can grow into an obsession. We pour over every detail in our minds and paint an exact picture of how things should play out. We might believe that the more details we add to our vision, the higher likelihood there is of it actually happening. However, in our eagerness to hold clear and powerful intentions, we have unintentionally shifted our focus from wanting to have a specific experience, and instead have put it on trying to manifest a specific event. Rather than creating space for the experience to happen, we find ourselves actually creating limits instead.
In reality, the more restrictions we put around our want and the options for attaining it, the more we reduce its chances of it actually happening. Then, as we fail to achieve our desire, the intensity of our demands on the world increase, and our stress levels rise. Overtime, such a downward spiral of stressful emotions leads to a life seen through the filter of scarcity.
If, instead of demanding that we get something we want in exactly the way we want it, we focus on the ‘what’ and not the ‘how,’ the world and our bodies work better. We set a clear and measurable goal, with a few preferences to ensure we don’t get something we don’t want. Then, we put it out to the world and release any expectation that we will ever receive it. We allow ourselves to feel content and complete regardless.
This of course doesn’t mean that we stop doing the things necessary to create the proper environment for the goal to be reached. It does mean, however, we let go of any desire to force it, and open ourselves to the possibility that our goal’s fulfillment may not take a shape that we expect. By relaxing around the receiving we often find the goal comes sooner and more easily, because we are open to the multiple versions and avenues it could take to come to us.
What’s a big need in your life you feel is not being fulfilled? How are the restrictions you’ve placed on this want preventing you from seeing the opportunities that do come your way? What are two things you can do this week, to relax around this desire and release the expectation that you will ever get it?
“As soon as you stop wanting something, you get it.” — Andy Warhol