Do you have a houseful of holiday guests coming for Thanksgiving?Are you already feeling like a pressure cooker building to explosive levels?Will your expectations get met, deflated, or exceeded?
Thanksgiving is still approaching and many are already emotionally exhausted. A frequent and astute client, named Mariana, taught me something last year when she called and mentioned how well her holiday went, even with the usual cast of disruptive and annoying characters.
While she knew holidays are supposed to be a fun, joyous series of occasions, she finally realized they got ruined for one big reason: her baseless expectations. What personal insight and courage she had to see this!
She planned on things going a certain way. She fantasized about conversations, compliments, and warm laughter. Her expectations were set ideas about what the outcome of the situation should be.They are inaccurate wishes more often than not, and holding on tightly to these ideas can cause a lot of anxiety and pain.
The problem for her having these rigid ideas of how things should turn out is that the relatives in her life very rarely followed the scripts she created in your head. Clinging to a belief that there is only one acceptable outcome not only set her up for a great deal of potential disappointment, but created tension and struggle among everyone present.
Mariana realized in refusing to release her expectations of how things should be, she was refusing to go with the flow of life. This resulted in trying to control events, which was futile and exhausting. By holding too tightly to expectancy, or being too set on an exact outcome, she influenced her own behavior in ways that weren’t helpful or healthy, either. She contributed to the family arguments.
How did all of this come about for her?
She realized she had a role in the chaos. Mariana started by unsetting her heart on how she would like the day to unfold. Having her heart set on a certain goal and outcome implied a rigid feeling and approach. A self-admitted control freak, Mariana admitted to being set in her ways, with very little space for flow, freedom, or spontaneity from anyone.
There is nothing wrong with having goals and dreams. Life would become somewhat aimless without hopes and aspirations. What she realized is potentially unhealthy though, is an obsession with the idea that there is only one very narrow path that can lead to your fulfillment, and that you know exactly, in the minutest detail, what that final destination must be like.
Holding on to expectations of how her family was to behave and enjoy the day, caused her to close her mind to potentially fulfilling opportunities, simply because those opportunities didn’t follow her exact formula she believed they should follow.
Mariana admits that letting go of her expectations was difficult. Like many of us, she was conditioned since childhood to grasp hold of goals and ideals, and to never let go. What she shows us is that we can keep our dreams, but let go of the rigid ideas of how those dreams can come true.Mariana’s message: by learning to release her grip on how she believed things should be, she began to enjoy how things really were, and opened her mind to the myriad of possibilities that exist with the holidays.
She called me to tell me she is looking forward to Thanksgiving this year. And, she passes a message on to all of us: dream big and dream wide. Don’t narrow your chances for happiness to one in a million, or even one in a hundred. Trade your expectations for explorations, and discover that there are a multitude of different ways that you can be happy and fulfilled in.