I recently said that 2017 could end any day now because I was done with it. As if on January 1st everything would re-set and we would be starting fresh. That would be nice, but the reality is far from that.
Last year was one of the most difficult years both professionally and personally. And to ensure that I could be confident with that claim – it went out with a bang. Or at least my car did…while my son was driving it. Anyone want a 2008 Honda Civic, needs some work. What about a 17-year old boy, also needs some work.
Screw you 2017.
And so the new year started and things became even more challenging. I don’t want this post to sound like a pity party, I am keenly aware that others are struggling with harder circumstances than mine, but allow me to take a minute to acknowledge the recent death of a really great guy, my father-in-law. Although he had been ill since the summer, we expected more time than we had with him and he died quickly and peacefully early in the new year.
I am not sure what I expected of the start of 2018, but that was not it. Nor was it the curve balls that my son feels compelled to throw at us on a daily basis. And it certainly was not the feelings of being completely overwhelmed and exhausted that required me to take off more time than I am comfortable with taking. It left me feeling disappointed with my ability to deal with things and with life in general at this moment.
That seems to be a constant refrain in my brain…disappointment with how things are going, how people are reacting or not reacting, how I am coping or not coping, and pretty much any outcome that is not in line with my expectations.
Over the holidays I read a book that was referred to my husband called Unfu*ck Yourself by Gary John Bishop and while it was a quick and repetitive read, there were a few points that really stuck with me. One of these is about disappointment, which it essentially defines as the gap between expectations and reality. The bigger the gap, the greater the disappointment.
The simplicity of this explanation smacked me right between the eyes. If I am constantly expecting things to be something that I am acutely aware that they will not be…I am ultimately setting myself up for a letdown.
And I am not alone, I started to see how many people do this to themselves (and others)…like say my mother with Christmas. No matter how much she plans and expects that this is the year we will be that family in the idyllic Christmas dinner scene in a magazine or Christmas special, the reality always falls spectacularly short. And thus the annual traditional of maternal disappointment is upheld.
Of course I can relate this to work…you knew I would. Employees expecting significant recognition or higher than usual bonuses for doing their job and the ultimate letdown, when all they get is a bi-weekly pay…for doing their job. Managers who hire that spitfire who will push the boundaries, challenge the norms, and lead the team to greatness are disappointed when the person turns out to be a disruptive pain in the ass that no one wants to work with and is putting the business at risk.
My challenges lay more within the personal domain. I need to recalibrate my expectations…not lower them…just make them more realistic. Of course, the idea would be that as things progress, your expectations can evolve and ultimately get to where you would like them to be. However, this isn’t going to happen without awareness and work.
I am a hopeful person, but also a practical one, so I am often looking for the best outcome, but not overly surprised (and ultimately disappointed) when it doesn’t happen. Forget work-life, this is the real imbalance that I struggle with.
So what does all of this mean? It means that I am going into situations asking myself, what are my expectations of what will happen? And what do I realistically think will happen? Now how far apart are these? And I am adjusting my expectations as required, but still hoping for the best.
So from the ashes of 2017, I am emerging with a better sense of what needs to happen, more realistic expectations and less disappointment.
And hope. Always hope.