I rang in 2020 with a cocktail somewhere over the Pacific on an epic adventure with my husband and children. My year started out watching my kids experience their first international trip, loving every new experience and all the delicious food. For my family, the phrase “it’s all downhill from here” rings especially true. The travel bug bit us hard and then the world shut down. My kids still talk about where they want to go on their next trip but now they add “when Coronavirus is gone” and the disappointment stings. I want that next adventure. I want my kids to explore the world. Instead, in 2020 we have explored our own backyard. We have hiked new trails in our own city. Less exciting than hopping on a plane, but like everyone, we made the best of it. We are expecting less to enjoy more.
Expectations can really get in the way of enjoyment.
This year has turned out to be full of disappointments for my family: missed celebrations, vacations, family visits. All of us are feeling the isolation. We had to reinvent summer break and what that looked like in the time of COVID. Back to School meant huge shifts and changes in our lives. Now we’re getting ready to slide into the holidays and again I am reevaluating my expectations of what that will look like. If I don’t, I will spend the holidays being disappointed. I will feel the hurt of missed family gatherings, missed traditions. I know we can make the best of it and I’ve slowly realized the role that expecting less plays in that process.
My disappointment is in direct correlation to my expectations.
When expectations run high, it can be hard to shift focus from what should be into what is. The higher my expectations, the deeper the despair of disappointment. I find myself so caught up in how disappointed I am in what someone else did or did not do, that I can’t be in the moment. That moment, however different from what I may have wanted, could be amazing in a different way. We didn’t go on our summer vacation, but we did enjoy some awesome backyard movie nights with the projector we bought instead. We still made amazing memories together. When I let go of what I expected from a situation or person, I can find enjoyment in my reality. Lowering my expectations has brought peace to my heart.
How do we go about expecting less?
The million-dollar question. How do we reign in these expectations we don’t always consciously conjure? Our expectations seem to creep up on their own. One practice I have found helpful is to seek gratitude. Finding things to be thankful for automatically focuses your mind on the positive. Can we be thankful for new holiday traditions? Can we be thankful for a slower holiday this year?
When we are faced with disappointment by a loved one, how can we move forward without getting stuck in our emotions? This is the disappointment that keeps me up at night. These are the expectations that are the hardest to let go. We naturally have high expectations of those we love. We want the best for and from them. Sadly, I have recently had to start expecting more of the same from some people in my life. More of the same might mean that I am not getting what I need from that relationship. This has caused me to shift my focus on where I do get what I need. Is there someone else to turn to instead? Is there something else that fills that need? Chances are, you have been compensating for that disappointment. Recognition is the first step to letting go of that expectation.
Let’s expect less and be surprised at the more we find.