It was 2:30 A.M. in our house. The wailing cries of our two-month-old infant filled our home. My wife, dog, and I had our world turned upside down and, at this particular moment, not in a good way. I decided to take the lead in trying to soothe my daughter as she repeatedly wailed in my ear. Patting her on the back, trying to stay calm, I began a slow walk throughout the house with her against my shoulder. Stress and exhaustion were weighing on me as I mentally went through the list of what the problem could be. Is she hungry? Tired? Gassy? All of the above? It was about this point as we meandered through the living room that my bare foot stepped in the middle of a pile of dog crap!
What Just Happened?!
Stunned, furious, and downright disgusted, I realized what I was standing in and began to hobble-limp my way to the kitchen in a desperate attempt to find some paper towels for my abused foot. My daughter continued to cry on my shoulder as I yelled for some assistance from my wife. It was now 2:37 A.M. in our house and our situation included two exhausted parents, a screaming baby, an anxious wreck of a dog with an upset stomach, his poop on the floor, my poop footprints on the floor, and my very smelly foot. One thought clearly popped into my mind: ¨What the ____ just happened?!¨
How Do Expectations Influence Your Life?
Expectations are a result of biological conditioning dating back to prehistoric man. The ability to anticipate and expect dangers is what has led to the successful development and progression of modern man. It is impossible to shut off the numerous, tiny details we anticipate on a daily basis. Though we may be able to adjust our expectations, we can’t completely stop that ability. When things don’t go according to our plans is when we actually have a choice. When I laid my head down a few hours before stepping in poop, my brain was conditioned to anticipate getting a solid night of sleep as I had for most of my years on Earth. Things ended up getting (literally and figuratively) messy when that did not work out.
My wife and I laugh when we think back to that crazy night. At the time, though, I did not find it so funny because I was in the heart of a mess with no sure way things would be better. I did come away with an enlightened sense of how much my expectations influenced my life. This is the first key to handling the unexpected and creating greater psychological flexibility. Awareness is the first step to change. The simplest way I know how to find where your expectations are out of line with reality is to look where there are the most ¨negative¨ emotions in your life. Hurt, anger, frustration, irritation, or disbelief are all good emotions to search for. Once you identify that area of your life, check what your expectations are and where they come from. Is your second child being unknowingly compared to the first? Are you comparing your spouse to how they behaved in an earlier stage of the marriage? Finding the comparisons will take us right to your expectations. If you can assess yourself with honesty and humility, you are on the path to becoming more flexible. If you are stuck and can’t see the next step, I’ll address it in my next blog. If you can’t wait until then, reach out to a trusted person to discuss what your expectations are and if they are keeping you stuck in the mess. Watch your step people!