You want to be the perfect parent?
You want to be the perfect employee? Perfect daughter/son in law?
You have these expectations which have been set before you enter into a specific season of life or before a particular job etc.
So often we are taught to reach for high expectations, they can become self-fulfilling prophecies which help to keep us streamline and focused on a goal. In education, for example, those who are repeatedly told and intrinsically believe they are capable of higher grades, have greater motivation and tend to achieve a more significant outcome.
But what happens when we don’t achieve the expectations which have been set? When our children don’t behave as we expect them to and scream for an hour, just because they are not allowed any more milk! (True event which occurred this morning!) When we want to have the perfect Christmas, with no family arguments, a Nigella worthy Turkey and home decorations worthy of a home styling magazine but the reality is more 10 people who never usually see eye to eye, a turkey which is ‘slightly’ overdone and a tree which looks like the leaning tower of Pisa with mismatched decorations and presents wrapped with the gaudy wrapping paper thrown under the tree!
We have miserably failed at our expectations. The expectations which we thought would bring us happiness instead bring us shame, regret and disappointment. We feel that we have failed at being parents or students or whatever situation we face ourself in. So why do we set them so high? To be perfect?
Please note, this is not to suggest that we should not aim high; instead, we must be realistic with our goals. We need to create realistic expectations, to narrow the gap between what we want and what is achievable. Opposed to setting expectations for perfection.
Notice that in many cases where we place high expectations, especially at Christmas, it is not just us we put those expectations on. But they are placed on autonomous people outside our control- they may not have the same expectations as us! We must realign those expectations, therefore, to be realistic and accepting of those around us. No one is perfect, and it is unlikely that any situation will be perfect.
Our expectations become our beliefs, and we feel accordingly. Why don’t we expect slightly less? When our expectations are lower and more realistic, we are more likely to be able to meet them. We feel better and then think better! What can be better than that!? Lowering expectations can be a key to finding happiness. Happiness and contentment can replace the feelings of guilt and disappointment at not achieving the imagined expectation.
This Christmas therefore, I am entering these few days, with a lower expectation. Instead of perfect meals, I’m focusing on my family being together and expecting to laugh about the disaster which is bound to occur!
My boys, I expect to be giddy, full of sugar and excited. Out of routine, getting new toys and having lots of people in the house means they probably won’t be on their best behaviour. Instead, I am going to be looking for manners and smiles which are (hopefully!) ingrained in them.
Expectations were like fine pottery. The harder you held them, the more likely they were to crack.
– Brandom Sanderson