This year, my full of spunk grandson was old enough to participate in a creative project, so part of our post-Thanksgiving celebration included decorating gingerbread men and a gingerbread house together. Artfully arranging decorations (we never called them candy – in fact it was only by accident that he realized they were edible after all the decorating was done!) on the gingerbread men and the house provided hours of entertainment. Exceedingly longer than would normally be anticipated for a 2 ½ year old! When all eight men and the house were complete, he was pleased as punch at what his efforts had produced.
One of the things I appreciate about kids is that they have very few expectations. They just want to have fun– the results are absolutely secondary!
The gingerbread men and gingerbread house kits had perfectly decorated men and a dreamy house pictured on the box. Urging my grandson to try and create gingerbread men and a house just like the ones pictured would have sucked all the fun out of the experience. After all, half the fun is living in the moment and experimenting!
Makes sense right? Being in the moment and letting go of the outcome makes for much more gratifying experiences for us as adults, yet too often expectations get in the way. Sometimes you don’t even realize you had expectations until after the fact and the disappointment sets in. Other times, you know exactly what your expectations are, but you fail to communicate them to the right people, making it impossible for them to comply with your wishes.
Expectations are often far too high for yourself, making it impossible for you to measure up in your own eyes. Next thing you know you are down on yourself, discouraged, and feeling insecure.
Expectations for others – those are often unreasonably high as well. When they don’t meet your invisible shoulds you take it personally, get angry, and feel disappointed.
Expectations for God – those are remarkably low, causing you to jump in and make up for what you don’t trust Him to do on your behalf.
Here’s the deal: expectations drag you down. They leave you hurt, stressed, disappointed, unproductive, lacking confidence, unhappy, and angry.
The good news: You, can choose to do life differently and be blessed! It starts with what you choose to focus on! Here are 5 alternative ways to shift your outlook and eliminate expectations in your life:
Focus on being…
Expectations are often attempts to avoid encounters with your Fear Monster. Unfortunately, when you focus on trying to outsmart your Fear Monster, whatever you were trying to avoid happens.
Rather than having expectations, be intentional about being who God created you to be; something that reflects Him in your life like being loving, authentic, courageous, compassionate, unshakeable, beautiful, creative, focused, generous, trusting, or ______________.
Expectations produce fear and discouragement. They encourage you to act out in ugly ways including rage, punishing others, self-pity, or acting like a victim that have an adverse effect on your personal and professional relationships when they aren’t met.
Your expectations gather evidence for you and against others. And they keep you from the very love you need to heal!
Lately I’ve been realizing the role control is playing when it comes to expectations; my desire to control my circumstances and the people in my life. Ironically, it’s impossible to control anything but me! My focus needs to be on being intentional about taking responsibility for me – controlling just me!
When you are 100% present and open to the adventure that life brings your way, you are less focused on what’s next, all you have to do, or all you want others to be. That’s when you can really appreciate right now. You are more aware because you are able to tune into how you feel. You are able to enjoy the process without worrying about the end results. You trust God knowing that He is with you right where you are, allowing you to focus on living from Him rather than for Him.
Performance – that’s the furthest thing from your mind! Fully dependent on Him – He loves it when you are in that place. Apart from Him, you can do nothing! (John 15:5)
You just never know what’s going to happen no matter what your expectations are! Some of the best gifts in life are unexpected! Learn to search for the positive in people and situations. It leads to significantly fewer regrets!
Babies are crazy flexible! When sitting, they can lean forward with ease and suck on their toes. When was the last time you were able to do that? Flexibility is one of the first things to go when we become adults and steadily declines without plenty of stretching and coaxing! It’s important to make the effort because physical flexibility increases your range of motion, decreases your chances of injury, improves your posture, promotes calm, and enhances your physical performance.
Being flexible in life also has its advantages. It allows you to face change and challenges in a healthy way not to mention allowing you to navigate stress more effectively. One thing is certain: life is always changing, so being able to quickly adjust is an advantage. It’s worth the work to let go of how you expect things to be, flex, and accept how they actually are.
Being rigid in life creates stress, anxiety, and frustration.
Expectations leave you passive and hoping that others will meet your needs. When you approach life in a proactive way you don’t deprive yourself of self-care, you practice healthy boundaries, and you take responsibility for making sure your needs are met. You extend compassion to yourself which in turn allows you to extend compassion to others. You understand your limits and no longer need to blame others or make excuses.
If going in to the decorating adventure with my grandson my expectation was that the gingerbread men and house would turn out just like the ones on the box (or the picture above), I would have been very disappointed! To be honest, I am not sure I would have been able to replicate the picture on the box myself, never mind with the help of a 2 ½ year old!
Instead, I was intentional about spending quality time with my grandson and having fun – focusing on the process. Being present; accepting where the adventure took us – even if his attention gave out long before the decorating was complete. Being flexible about what the right way to decorate was or attempting to create perfect gingerbread house and men. My grandson got quite a chuckle out of decorating the back of one of the gingerbread men rather than the front! Participating in the activity from a well-cared for place that didn’t hurt! Here’s what our memorable moment produced:
They say that expectations are like opinions – everyone has them. There’s some truth to that, but when you choose to focus on being intentional, present, accepting, flexible, and proactive your expectations will shrink considerably!
How have expectations been playing out for you?
© Can Stock Photo / RuthBlack