Right before heading out of NYC (on my journey of every inch of New York State) for Christmas vacation, I was having a cup of coffee and conversation with a friend/mentor and we were talking about how excited we were for Christmas. We actually defined ourselves as big “Christmas People.” Neither of us religious, just really into the whole holiday season.
I have a long history of holiday love. As a kid, I remember sitting with my brothers on our large staircase while my parents decorated the house singing Christmas carols together, our annual tradition of decorating gingerbread men, the school play (yes, I played an elf), my parent’s Christmas part, and Christmas dinner. But more than the events, I remember the feelings. I remember the air feeling lighter, moods feeling uplifted; I remember laughter and a whole lotta love. And yes, I’ve even been known to throw up from pure excitement (years ago……)
Knowing what I know now, I guess I was pretty lucky to have such great memories.
During the conversation I mentioned earlier, I started talking about how much more magical the holidays were as a kid or at least having kids around, and as I said it I started thinking about why that happens.
What I often hear around the holidays these days is that we’re just trying to get through; we can’t wait for the business to be over; and that the stress is just too much this time of year.
I get it. I feel that way sometimes, too. I’m afraid that I don’t have enough time to get the shopping done and see all of the people I want to see or enough money to get people what I really want to get them.
I get nervous that the meal won’t be perfect and traditions will get lost in a changing family dynamic.
I have a vision in my mind of what the holidays are going to be like. What it’s going to smell like, what cookies I’m going to eat, the sound of glasses clinking as we cheers and most of all how I will feel. How I’ll feel when someone opens the gift I chose just for them or trying to understand what someone was thinking when they chose a gift for me.
I get myself so excited anticipating recreating the wonderment of the holiday season…the feelings and memories from my past that I nearly forget to enjoy the present
But then almost none of that happens. It’s almost like I set myself up to get disappointed every single year.
I set expectations based on my past experiences that aren’t realistic and ultimately set me up for disappointment.
I do this in other areas of my life, too, not just around the holidays…
…Going on dates
…Big nights out
Before the event has even taken place, I’ve created an outcome that never comes to fruition.
Again, disappointment and feeling jaded about life.
Now, I’m not going to tell you that we should eliminate all of our expectations because without expectations we wouldn’t set goals for ourselves, feel motivated, excited, happy, sad, angry, or disappointed, which are important emotions to feel. I do however, want to share how releasing expectations in certain situations can help you create a fresh perspective and feel happier more often.
Let’s start with my Christmas. Every year for the past 5 or so, I’ve ended up in tears for a variety of reasons that, in hindsight, feel a little bit silly. But! They were my feelings at the time and truly felt validated. While each year has gotten slightly better as I realized I needed to release my high expectations, it’s been challenging nonetheless. I realized if I didn’t figure out how to enjoy the holidays, I would end up dreading it and feeling slightly jaded. So I did. I released my expectations (easier said than done) and had one of the best holidays I’ve had in years.
3 Ways to Release Expectations for Happiness
Focused On the Present Moment
You are in this moment once. Don’t let it pass you by. Experience your moments in the present with a big full heart and open mind. When we are concerned about what is going to happen in the future, we’re unable to speak as ourselves and act in a light carefree way; we’re anticipating our expectations
The best things in life are often unexpected. Even as someone who knows this and experiences it regularly, I still try to take control of situations and my schedule. What I’ve found is giving into the process of life and letting things unfold as they should is so much more enjoyable because at the end of the day, no matter what I do, I don’t have control.
Develop a Sense of Wonder
As we experience more and develop more context for the world and people around us, we can often become jaded. Nothing really excites us or gives us that desire for a big full belly laugh. Everything is almost boring. When we set expectations, we assume we know what’s going to happen so the experience isn’t new. It’s almost like we’ve been there before eliminating the ability to be awed. Be fascinated with life and what’s happening around us. I mean if you really think about it, it’s all pretty awesome isn’t it? My mom is so good at this…I’m trying to learn more from her.
As I’ve become more aware of how releasing expectations can make me happier, I’m able to recognize when I’m trying to fulfill expectations instead of living my moments. I realize this because I start to feel uncomfortable, unhappy, or on the verge of tears. When I start to feel these emotions, I take a step back and ask myself where those emotions are coming from. Once, I pinpoint them, I engage myself in more positive self-talk and move forward.
What about you? Do you set expectations and end up feeling less than stellar? Let me know in the comments below.
Lots of love x