Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lower your Expectations

I  got so frustrated with the Roo this morning about still not getting herself dressed.  She's almost 6 for goodness sakes.  But I'm still thinking about what my pastor said the other day about anger.  It usually stems from something else somewhere deep inside of us.  My anger this morning stemmed from embarrassment-what would people think if they knew this about her/us?  So I step back and say to myself  "who cares"?  And then I think even more about the time that I spend with her.  She's definitely doing this to "get my goat".  But why?  To have more time with me is my guess.  She's getting older and wanting to do more on her own but then she doesn't.  It's frustrating when I do make "just us" time and then she chooses something else.  But she's growing and I'm loosening my grip a little each day.  For now I will loosen my expectations on the actions I know will come.  It's a delicate dance our relationship.  I wouldn't miss it for the world. 

This article was a great reminder for me this morning:

Lower Your Expectations—Be Happier!

My parents are late to everything. They have missed many things, including Thanksgiving dinners, flights, and the beginning of almost every movie, just to name a few. My grandma swears she takes Turbo Kick at her retirement community and that I should try to make it harder. I have explained to her on, oh, at least 100 occasions that she's actually taking a Tai Chi class. My relatively new car already smells like a blend of Happy Meals and small sweaty feet. My husband is a bit fuzzy when it comes to the difference between a Phillips-head and flat-head screwdriver. The "cheap-o-matic" vacuum I bought has cost me double its price tag in repairs and maintenance. At least once a year I get a nasty email from a disgruntled customer, who hates my programs, hates me, and hates the world. I know that each time a certain high school girlfriend calls it's because she has a new trauma-drama in her life and seeks my advice (ya right!) again.

These things used to get me down, disappointed, frustrated and/or mad. You probably have someone in your life who routinely has you in fits, consuming your energy or monopolizing your thoughts. Maybe you're frustrated by the constant chaos that raising a family creates. How often are you disappointed by the same set of circumstances, same friend, same frustrating co-worker, same relative? Why don't they just see the light, strand up and fly straight once and for all?

Ironically, the person who disappointed you most recently tried to tell you this was going to happen. If you really thought about it, you should have expected this, right? I mean let's face it, Grandma is 76 and believes what she believes. I should stop trying to change her mind and just ask her, "How was Turbo Kick today?" My husband is never going to build an extra wing on our house, but he gives Emeril Lagasse a good run for his money. I bought a crappy vacuum and should have expected it would die an expensive death. We serve over 16,000 customers; certainly I should expect to rub some people the wrong way. That's realistic.

Why be disappointed by things we should realistically expect? Most people behave consistently, whether it's consistently reliable, consistently bad or consistently inconsistent. If your best friend remembers your birthday a week late each year, why be disappointed this year? It has nothing to do with her adoration for you. Maybe she's just bad at remembering dates. Get real.

Unrealistic expectations are a sure-fire way to stir up stress levels and harbor futile frustration. It is useless. You can expect that one of your household appliances will break down the day you need it the most. You can expect that your "flaky" relative will be just as unreliable this year as he was last. Expect that your toddler will use a Sharpie to make his mark on your beautiful "company only" white couch. That is the kind of thing toddlers do. Expect that which is likely, predictable, and realistic based on past experience and then relax when it happens.

When I invite a house full of kids over, I can expect that they will spill Gatorade on my floor, break something, seek and destroy the temporary order in both kids' rooms. I can expect a trail of water from the pool to the bathroom, a fight, and a healthy decibel level. Someone will want something to eat, another will pee on the toilet seat, and my kids will declare they're "bored" the moment everyone leaves. Now that I can safely assume these things will happen, I can chill when they do.

Don't throw a party if you're a controlling clean freak. Don't rely on someone who has been unreliable in the past. Don't expect a person of low character to behave differently with you.

A friend of mine called the other day and asked what I thought she should do about a subordinate she found to have been "complaining" about her to another employee. I asked, "Are you the boss?" She replied, "Well, yeah." I explained, "There's not a person on the planet who, at some point, didn't have a complaint about the boss. Don't take it personal. It's just what people do to blow off steam." Sometimes we complain about other people to mask our self-recognized shortcomings. I've enjoyed and learned from every boss I've ever had. I've also found something to complain about. I love my staff and they love me (and if I find out otherwise, you're all fired!) However, I'm sure there are days when they need to poke pins in the Chalene voodoo doll. I wouldn't blame them. I expect it.

The opening line of the book, The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck begins simply, "Life is difficult." As one who wears rose-colored lenses, this line more than ruffled my feathers. I hated that line. But Peck's message (to simplify) was that if we expect that life will be difficult we will be better equipped to handle its challenges, and more likely to tighten our seatbelt and enjoy the bumpy-ride excitement. Children of healthy marriages expect that relationships take work and that conflict will arise and resolve.

When we accept that difficulties are a part of life, when we consider that most people are predictable, when we expect imperfection and malfunction, when we anticipate having to do the job ourselves and set expectations realistically, we learn to take every jolt in stride and lead a happier existence.

So set your expectations for peaceful perfection a little lower. This is life. There's always something. Enjoy the ride.



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