Tis the season for expectations…and the potential for despair, disappointment…. We all have them…most just lingering under the surface of our thoughts and actions…or responses. With the holiday season upon us – the pressure rises…to meet others and have ours met.
We all have them – year-round – the holidays just seem to stir them up! You know, that tinge of sadness…and perhaps guilt when you see another happy couple, family – all smiles and together…it’s the cold anxiety as you scan your gift list and the declining bank balance. It’s the sheer terror as you wake up post Black Friday…Amazon shopping frenzy to see you have nothing left for the rest of your week. Finding yourself scanning FB and Instagram…comparing others posts…rushing to match with happy selfies…inspirational quotes…lost in the cute puppies and kitten videos. Watching your spouse and feeling anger that they are not getting it…. whatever it is.
While nothing is wrong with having expectations…most of us are not in touch with what we expect from ourselves and others….and most definitely have not shared these with our loved ones. Holiday time increases our comparisons…reflections and regrets and disappointments. Borrowing a quote from Tony Robbins, “To change your life, you must change your expectations for appreciation.”
Sounds simple, just swap those 2 words out…life all better…. Right?
Not from what I’ve seen in others or myself! Linda for example… a wife and mother of 4 busy kids…. all spread across the age group…so she and her husband manage preschool to high school kid needs and demands. Add into that she balances a part time job (I know being a Mom is already a full-time job) and college as she has plans for a career – not just a job. Recently she decided she wanted to stop being so angry…at life, her husband, kids…the dog…herself. But she couldn’t get past the sheer rage and impatience she felt on the drive home.
By the time she walked through the door or drove into the school pick up line…her blood was boiling – on the verge of tears or screaming. Teeth clenched, hands gripping the steering wheel so hard her hands would cramp, and knuckles go white. She was miserable and everyone around her was too. Kids fought with each other…ignored chores and homework…no punishment worked. Husband either slunk in and avoided…walking on eggshells or “King Kong” like raged and yelled and attempted to corral the kids and get them and the house on track. Nothing seemed to work.
In talking with Linda, we started to look at what the thoughts below the emotions she was having…it was slow going as is for most folks…. these expectations are buried deep with all sorts of rules about having and expressing them. Linda dug deep and let herself feel…. embarrassed, sad, hurt, jealous…. anything and every emotion was full game.
She discovered that she expected to be a better wife, mother…that her choice in husband would have been better, that her kids would have been easier to raise…to be further in her career and not just in school to have a career. She realized she was comparing herself to her friends and FB friends…looking back and judging her decisions she made years ago. There was not one shred of appreciation for herself or the others…just judgment and disappointment and impatience.
So, she got a grip on herself…and her expectations…and switched them for appreciation. For everything she was angry or disappointed about – she worked hard to turn it into an appreciation. Linda wrote everything down in 2 columns and made a huge effort to match each up…laughing she says she was “neutralizing” her poison thoughts. Linda was right – by switching her focus to one of appreciation and gratitude…she was canceling out the poison and destruction of unrealistic and unspoken expectations. She said, “the kids think I’ve really lost it” …the other day we walked into the house after a long work and school day to find the dog had been sick…very sick in multiple places throughout the house….and I just sighed and then laughed. I sent the older kids to get cleaning stuff and the younger one to take the dog outside.
As I walked past the landmines to open windows…I kept going through my list of appreciations…I’m lucky to have so many kids to help clean up the mess, lucky that the dog is usually healthy and potty trained, grateful that this did not happen in the morning rush to get out of the house, lucky that we had not replaced the old tile floor with the new wood and carpet I had wanted. I made myself keep finding every little thing I could be appreciative of…right down to HEB having a sale on paper towels last week and my hubby stocking up on them.
I got a grip on myself- my thoughts are now more on appreciation…it’s hard to be angry, sad, disappointed while I’m feeling grateful. I shared this with my hubby and he’s starting to use it too. The kids still think we are crazy, but they play along when we have a pop quiz on what they are appreciative and grateful for….
Get a grip on your life…write your own expectations versus appreciation list…then use it! Everyday! Read out loud – shout it out -all the things you are grateful for…people you value and appreciate in your life. Change your focus – when your stuck in a long grocery line…play a game with yourself- take control of your thoughts – take advantage of the break and see what good things you can focus on…be in charge of your life…not life being in charge of you.
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Hugs, Dr Liz