My expectations have been too high.
A lot of things, actually…but I’m trying to change that.
This time of year is filled with expectations: the arrival of Jesus, the arrival of winter, the hope of a new year, and myriad other things.
In fact, our church has been using the concept of “Great Expectations” as a theme for Advent this year. Because of that, I’ve been making an effort to adjust my own expectations…in many ways.
The problem with expectations
It’s fine to look forward to certain things and get excited about what’s in store for the future – whether it’s preparing for parties, unwrapping gifts, or simply getting to work on time. But the problem is, very often, our expectations are far different from reality.
Religiously speaking, as our pastor explained, the Israelites of Jesus’ day were expecting a king in the manner of King David: a warrior, fighter, take-charge kind of guy who would march right in and restore their kingdom. So when they began thinking Jesus may be the one, they got their hopes up based on their expectations of what their king would be like.
However, when Jesus instead preached peace and love, refused to take any role in the government, and allowed Himself to be persecuted and tortured, they were so aghast they rose up against Him. He did not live up to their expectations.
Likewise, in our personal and secular lives, our expectations often get in the way of us enjoying life when reality sets in. A few examples…
Long lines at the mall…who’d have known??
People always complain about waiting in lines at stores this time of year. Everyone is shopping and everyone is in a hurry – so when everyone gets in line to check out, everyone gets annoyed.
Not me. In this particular case, I understand expectation vs. reality.
I assume that I’m going to be in line for at least half an hour. No, I probably won’t be in line for that long, but that’s what I tell myself to expect. Then, when I end up only being in line for 20 minutes, I feel like I’m 10 minutes ahead of the game!
And you know what? My day is not ruined and I leave the store with a smile.
Assuming, of course, my 2-year-old daughter isn’t screaming.
Speaking of high expectations…
Expecting my daughter to not scream about something is unrealistic. Remember what I said at the beginning of this post about my expectations being too high lately? This is what I was talking about.
You see, she stopped taking regular naps a few weeks ago, which is killing me – I have no more time to work, other than the evening. This means I cannot market my voiceover business, write children’s books and poetry, or even update a blog until after the kids are in bed.
That doesn’t leave a whole lot of time; 2-3 hours is about all I have, if I want to spend any quality time with my wife. Consequently, my paychecks have plummeted while my anxiety has skyrocketed. And my expectations have been so far off from reality it’s driving my nuts!
I keep hoping my daughter will take a nap, but of course she doesn’t. I keep expecting her to not draw on the floor with Sharpies while I’m cleaning the cat pan, but she does. I keep expecting her to not play in the cat pan while I’m wiping off Sharpie from the floor, but she does that, too.
I keep anticipating that today is the day she won’t fight and flail and scream because I want her to wear long pants instead of a summer skirt.
But it never is.
Today was different!
No, she didn’t change. What changed were my expectations.
I woke up this morning assuming I’d get absolutely nothing done.
Call me defeatest, but I was simply trying to be realistic! Anyone with kids knows how hard it is to clean a house with a 2-year-old around: as soon as you fold the clothes, the kid is climbing into the kitchen sink; as soon as you pull her out of the sink and wipe the counter, she’s throwing the folded laundry on the floor.
And somewhere in the midst of it all, she’s finding another Sharpie that we thought we had hid and is drawing on a wall.
Or her face.
So today, I tried something different. I planned to accomplish nothing – and it worked! I didn’t expect to get the dishes put away and reload the dishwasher, but I did. I didn’t expect to be able to get some yard work done, but I did! I didn’t expect to be able to get any voice work done, but —
Oh, wait. I still wasn’t able to do that.
But by setting my expectations lower, I found I didn’t get upset or frustrated like I have been, and my daughter and I are both the better for that.
Revising expectations: not always lower…just different
I’m not saying you should always lower your expectations. I’m just suggesting that altering them to be more realistic is probably not a bad idea.
Should you expect a holiday bonus this year? Should you expect one as big or as little as last year? Should you expect to get a great parking spot at the mall two days before Christmas? Should you expect every driver on the road to always use their turn signals and never cut people off?
Should I expect to sell two more picture books next year??
Well…probably not. It’s not going to keep me from trying, certainly; setting a goal of selling two picture book manuscripts is absolutely worthwhile. But I’m not expecting that to happen. I sold one this past year, so the expectation of selling two the following year may be a bit too ambitious.
Oh, and by the way…now that I no longer expect to be able to decorate for the holidays due to the massive construction work at our house, I’m much more at ease. I am, however, still coming to terms with my office/studio being crammed full and covered in plastic:
YOUR “Great Expectations”
Is there some area in your life where you find that reality is not in line with your expectations? Do you know of any ways that you or other readers can alter our expectations about things, so we feel less disappointment and be more at peace with our lives and the world?
Myself, I’m still a relatively new player to the publishing game and have two poems coming out in two separate anthologies in 2016, so I’ll be happy if I sell at least a couple more poems.
I also expect to gain at least one new voiceover client within the first half of the year – far less than I should, but considering my parenting situation, I really cannot expect much more!
I also expect that the new Star Wars movie is going to rock our planet with awesomeness far beyond all expectations!
That’s not too much to expect, is it?
13 thoughts on “In a season of expectations, find peace in reality”
Very wise, Matt! As they say, attitude is everything. Thanks for the reminder 🙂
Thank you, Tabatha – it’s a lesson I’m still trying to learn!
Wisdom! Thank you! (And best wishes for a Merry Christmas and good solutions for work)
Thanks, Jane, I’m glad you appreciated this!
Thanks for this wonderful post — great advice, so well said. Your posts always meet my high expectations :)!
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Well, thank you, Jama! Anyone who has read your incredible blog knows very well the high standards you keep, so I’m very pleased I met them!
I wrote a little bit about waiting in line today Matt, and did change my expectation. It worked out so well. This is so wise, to relax into the beauty of your life with all the craziness of a two year old and construction. You won’t have a two year old for long, so how nice that you get to stay with her and see her grow (while hiding the Sharpies!). Your post should be a column in a newspaper!
Thank you, Linda. We’re always told to be accepting of things we cannot change, but I think it’s important to adjust our expectations first – so that the sting of disappointment doesn’t cloud our sight. Glad you finally got out of that line! 😉
Great article, Matt! Going to share this one! I can picture myslef scrubbing the sharpie off the floor and seeing my youngest so many years ago dumping the folded laundry.
I appreciate that, Vince – thanks! Having two older daughters, I really can see the two young ones with a different perspective.
I love this post. From the title and content I was expecting a serious post, but then your precious daughter came in to the picture, and I could not stop smiling. Even though my daughters have not been 2 for a long time, I well remember looking forward to nap time when I could finally get something done. Then I got pregnant again and nap time for my 2 year old was nap time for me, too. Talk about not expecting that third child! But when we turn to the blessings, we change. We live fully into each day whatever that day may bring. Thanks for this post. And here’s hoping you have a few productive days in the coming weeks. But also take note, this time is fleeting. Two year olds become adults in no time.
Well, Margaret, you know me – I can’t be too serious for too long! My wife’s been asking me each day she comes home from work how things have been…and I tell her the same thing: “Well, I accomplished nothing, but the kids are happy.” And yes, 2-year-olds grow up quickly. I can’t believe my little dude is going to be 6 in just a couple weeks!
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I love this post. I always think of the worst thing that could happen and then try to plan for how I’d deal with it. It’s not that I’m pessimistic–I just know life happens, and not according to my own expectations.
P.S. Sorry to hear about Cleo–your poem is a lovely eulogy…