Lower Your ExpectationsBe
From the Million Dollar Body Club - Join Today and Workout to
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 Jam 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 (yeah,
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 coworker, same relative? Why don't they just see the
light, stand 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 Jam 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 have thousands of 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 houseful of kids over, I can expect
that they will spill Gatorade on my floor, break something, and 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 personally. 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
So set your expectations for
peaceful perfection a little lower. This is life. There's always something.
Enjoy the ride.