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Along The Path

Along the Path is a monthly newsletter created by Coach Marlene Boas, Ph.D., BCC
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" A mathematical formula for happiness: reality divided by expectations. There are two ways to be happy: imporve your reality or lower your expectations."    
Jodi Picoult

Managing Expectations

The holidays are upon us and our senses and psyches are filled with the wonderful sights, sounds, and smells of the season. Starting in October we are bombarded with sensory input with images and messages about making the holidays better than ever if we just buy the right gifts, or decorate our homes better, or fulfill every desire on our children's wish lists. If we can just keep up and aim for perfection, all will be right in our world.  That's pretty stressful! Much of that unwanted stress and disappointment in our lives is tied directly to unrealistic expectations. We have an idealized, distorted vision about how things should be and expect far too much from a person or situation. That's not surprising considering the inordinate amount of marketing that goes on this time of year. Unrealistic expectations are a direct path to disappointment and once we start down that road it's hard to readjust our course. Paying attention, and learning to manage our expectations can infuse joy back into the holidays.
We're all familiar with Norman Rockwell's 1940s iconic painting of the happy multigenerational family anticipating the luscious turkey dinner prepared by the loving matriarch with her adoring husband looking on and beaming with pride. Did you know the title of the painting is actually "Freedom from Want"?  After Rockwell was finished with the painting, he thought that perhaps he had made the turkey too big, since most of Europe was hungry and in dire straits due to WWII.  Was this freedom from want or overabundance? Do you think this picture creates a sense of unrealistic expectations or does it give a vision for how enjoyable a holiday can be?
Managing expectations is a careful balancing act, like knowing how to cook the turkey enough to be beautifully done but not so much that it's all dried out. Expectations that are set too low keep us from achieving our potential and set too high we can feel overwhelmed, disengaged, and ultimately disappointed.  Challenging ourselves to do things better is inspiring but competing for a personal best, based on unrealistic expectations, creates unwanted stress and is counterproductive. So take an inventory and determine what's reasonable in terms of spending your time, energy and financial resources this holiday season. Accept that nothing and no one is perfect. If your natural default is to be disappointed, think about how you might rewrite your internal script to shift the focus from searching for what's not "right" to celebrating all the good that "is".   Your self talk is the compass that sets your course. Make sure you're going down the right path.
My holiday wish for you:

May you experience the joy of being your best self and easily see the best in others.

Copyright © 2014, Marlene Boas, All rights reserved.

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