How to Avoid Unmet Expectations This Holiday Season
Tony Robbins’ famous quote, ‘trade your expectations for appreciation and the world changes instantly can be a powerful way to choose to live our lives. Appreciation and gratitude are deeply connected. In fact, the definition of gratitude includes ‘a readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.’ With Halloween night tonight and the holiday season just around the corner, how do we manage our expectations? And what can we do to help our children manage theirs? Is there a way to use gratitude and appreciation to avoid frustration and challenging situations? In this post, I’ll share different strategies to trade our expectations for appreciation.
Halloween night is full of expectations
The combination of sugar, cold weather and late nights can have an effect both on parents and kids during the Halloween season. When we aren’t focusing on self-care as much, it can be harder to find appreciation in any given situation. One of the strategies that I have used is to stop and take a deep breath before reacting to a difficult moment. This can be used with our children as well, when their expectations have not been met, there is a chance they will act out or make poor choices. We can also teach them to stop and breath before a situation gets even worse. Have you ever noticed that when we eat sugar it immediately affects our mood and our ability to deal with our kids? As a recovering sugar addict, I have found this to be true time and time again.
Growing up with high expectations
In our family, we grew up with high expectations. Our expectations of others combined with our expectations of experiences were not always easy to live up to. Thankfully, for the most part, our expectations were met or exceeded. However, when people and situations fell short of our expectations, I know that I found it difficult to focus on what I appreciated. I did not know how to discipline my disappointments as Jim Rohn would say.
One of the biggest lessons I had to learn was that I cannot control how other people will act. This seems like such a simple thing, yet so many of us focus on how others will act or react in a given situation and base our expectations on our assumptions. This can be very damaging to our relationships over time, especially when we are disappointed again and again by those we have high expectations for. When we choose to focus on what we appreciate about that person, it changes our whole outlook on them and will improve our relationship over time.
Should we lower our expectations?
What if the solution is to lower our expectations to avoid being disappointed? I disagree. I believe it’s still a great idea to believe that people will show up and give their best. The important thing to remember is that even if something or someone doesn’t live up to what we had ‘expected’, it’s best to assume that they acted as best as they could in that situation. The point is that our focus is on appreciation what is real as opposed to zooming in on what we had expected to happen.
This is a huge challenge during the holiday season, especially when it comes to Christmas gifts. Our children often have high expectations of what Santa Clause (or their parents) will be putting under the Christmas tree. And as every parent knows, it’s not always possible to put everything on the list under the tree. Teaching our kids to appreciate what they do have is a challenge yet vital life lesson. A great way to get some perspective is to learn about how many families may not be able to put anything under the tree at all. My friends April and Sarah Rutka started a charity called Holiday Helpers over 20 years ago, to help families in need at Christmas. Based in Toronto, they are helping over 550 families this year to have a Christmas celebration. And without their help, these families would not have even tree to put anything under.
Our expectations need to be expressed
Lastly, when we don’t express our expectations of others, this can get us into a lot of trouble. This can be a big source of stress in a relationship. When my husband and I first met, he was clear with me, tell me what you want me to do because I cannot read your mind. So if I expected that he would hang up his towel after a shower, or put his dirty laundry in the basket, I had to tell him. This seems really simple – yet many of us don’t actually tell our partners what we expect. Nor do we ask them what is expected of us. I believe that clear communication of our expectations from each other in our relationship has been really helpful for us. And the most important part to remember is to say thank you and I appreciate you. Those few words will go a long way.
I invite you to pay attention to your expectations this week. How can you shift from being disappointed to being grateful? Is this something you can help your kids with? It’s an amazing lesson to learn when we’re young. Thankfully, it’s also a lesson we can learn as adults.
Healthy and Happy for the Holidays – Live EVENT!! Please join me on Monday November 20th from 7 – 9 pm at the Burlington Golf and Country Club for our last event of the year. Eventbrite to be posted this week.