Keep Your Expectations on the Rails

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  Each year my family and I relive fond memories of family traditions that come from an annual practice of being together during this time. My favorite part is the evening ritual of pulling out all of the leftovers and making a cold turkey sandwich while watching my son and his cousins create new, perhaps indigestible, concoctions. These are the memories that I choose to hold onto, and I can share that not all of our holidays have been so much fun.

Think for a moment how you orient to your holidays, your team, your workplace or even yourself.  While we may have expectations, the reality is that “stuff happens.” I choose not to dwell on the memories of my youngest brother showing up one year with a stomach virus that ran through the entire family and friends over the Thanksgiving weekend. Or the time that I was so stressed out about hosting the perfect event for everyone that I was too tired to enjoy just being with my family, which is the point, after all.  Life definitely happens, particularly when your expectations are over the top.

As you prepare for your holidays, for wrapping up projects or getting started on your plan for 2016, here are a few ideas that might be useful as you think about how you orient to setting expectations:

  • Schedule some time on your calendar to just think about how you set expectations – what’s worked, what hasn’t worked, and what you want to do differently. Do you tend to over-promise and under-deliver on projects or commitments, or something else?  What do you want to try today that would help you set more realistic expectations?
  • Sometimes we set expectations of others based on our own ability, or inability, to deliver on what we believe is the ideal outcome. Before you say “yes” to something, take the time to really think about how much time and energy you will need to deliver on a commitment, and what the consequences will be of the choices that you make.  For example, do you have to bake all of the desserts (hours of preparation and execution), or could you order desserts from a local bakery and use your time for something else?  How can you engage your team or others in helping you align expectations to what’s possible?
  • Advertising agencies get paid a lot of money to create emotional connections for their clients. At home or in the workplace, you can’t airbrush reality out of a real situation. Notice how you react to things not being perfect or changes in your plans. What could you do to allow yourself some space for error and recalculating on a project? For example, if the turkey is underdone and everything else is ready to serve, what will you do?  From personal experience, charades isn’t a great option, but it might do for a brief distraction.

If your expectations are off the rails, you will miss creating the memories and outcomes that are possible. Learning, adapting and trying something new in the moment, creating new habits and being in conversation with those who can help will improve outcomes and help create expectations that far exceed what you imagine.

Gratitude allows us to recognize the sources of good in our lives, and for this moment and all that you bring to your world and those around you, I’m grateful. I wish you kindness and care for yourself and others during this season of thanksgiving.