Let’s start with a word: Expectations. They can be so dangerous sometimes. It’s so easy, though, to muster up and place big fat expectations on ourselves, and sometimes worse, others and situations that are relatively out of our control. I say it’s sometimes worse to have big lofty expectations of others because, as we’ve discussed previously, it’s really hard (read: impossible) to control others. At least when it’s about us we do often have a little more control… sometimes. Anyway, expectations of others, especially really big ones: not good. People are not always as kind, generous, thoughtful, respectful, self-sacrificing, and as good at reading minds as we are… it sucks, and it’s too bad. THEREFORE, expecting others to be as kind, generous, thoughtful, respectful, self-sacrificing as we are is a perfect recipe for… you got it.
Recently I was speaking with a client who was absolutely dreading going to her family Christmas dinner this year. It was to be the second annual Christmas dinner with a newly blended step-family after a parent’s re-marriage. Last year the dinner was awkward and uncomfortable and she couldn’t wait for it to end, but afterward felt quite disheartened by the fact that her Christmas dinner was not special, not comfortable, and definitely not enjoyable. SO, we decided to do a little exercise. We decided that Christmas dinner this year was again going to be awkward, uncomfortable and much less than pleasant, and that’s just the way it was going to be. It would not be a fun time, and for this one mandatory gathering of family, that’s just what it was going to be: No fun. No expectations. And guess what? She came back to see me afterward and as it turns out, the dinner actually went ok. Of course it was nowhere near the best night of her life… not even close. But it WAS doable, manageable, and just about half-decent, and she felt just thrilled about this.
So the moral of the story: check the expectations at the door. Leave them at home in the back of your closet, or in a storage locker somewhere. And if you must and absolutely INSIST on keeping some of your expectations, then you are only allowed to expect most things to go okay. Then, if they go great, then GREAT! And if they go terribly, well that’s okay because you weren’t expecting too much anyway. And if they go okay, well that’s about what you were expecting.