3 Questions to Set Yourself Free From Unrealistic Expectations

If you feel like you’re constantly in motion yet going nowhere fast, it's time to press pause.

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Getty Images

“I’ll finally clean out the junk drawer in my kitchen.”

That was my pandemic promise.

You know the drawer I’m talking about, because you probably have one, too.  The drawer that will barely open because it’s packed full of discarded treasures you fully intend to use again.  And never do.  Pens with no ink.  Broken rubber bands.  A dilapidated deck of playing cards.  Part of somebody’s homework.  And carryout menus silently judging you for failing the Martha Stewart dinner test.  Every.  Single.  Night.

What was your pandemic promise?

Maybe you were going to exercise more.  Cook more.  Become a better partner, parent or pet owner.  And finally lose that last ten pounds.  All of which are worthwhile goals.

The challenge is that pandemic promises are like New Year’s resolutions.  And guess who got their 2020 New Year’s resolutions wrong?  Everyone.

And that’s OK.  The good news is there is a path forward to a better you personally and professionally even amidst a pandemic.

The secret to your success is sentence structure.

If only….then I would….

The most powerful stories are the stories we tell ourselves.  And the stories that set us up for disappointment and detours on our path to happiness and success follow a predictable pattern.  Have you ever told yourself stories like these?:

  • If only I could lose ten pounds, then I would have the confidence to start dating again.
  • If only I would get promoted, then I would finally be successful.
  • If only I could change jobs, then I would be happier.
  • If only I could spend more time at home, then I would….

In my case, the answer was to clean out that nagging junk drawer.  Along with all my drawers and closets.  The outcome I pictured?  Perfection.  The perfect house.  The perfect me.  

Except that I still haven’t cleaned out that junk drawer.  Because I discovered what I needed to clean out instead.  And you do, too.  Unrealistic expectations.

Stop Declaring, Start Discovering

While commuting to and from work and spending time away from home, I thought the grass would be greener (literally and figuratively) if only I could spend more time at home.

What I discovered along the way from suddenly working from home full time is that my calendar and my to do list looked a lot like that junk drawer.  Full of things that were taking up space even though they no longer served me.  Can you relate?

My unrealistic expectation of myself was that being on the road frequently was what kept me from succeeding with my junk drawer.  What really inhibited my success was the belief that working from home was the path to realizing that elusive goal of “having it all together all the time.”

May I Have What I Want and Want What I Have

That’s how I define success now, thanks to shared wisdom from a longtime friend and mentor.  What I’ve discovered is I want enough breaks in the daily action of life to enjoy my life.  And maybe you do, too.

If you feel like you’re constantly in motion yet going nowhere fast, press pause.  Scan your calendar and your to do list with these three questions to set yourself from the resolutions, promises and obligations that no longer serve you:

  • Does it have to be?
  • Does it have to be me?
  • Does it have to be me right now?

What have you given yourself permission to pause in this pandemic? 

Share your questions and ideas here and at @karenmangia or http://www.linkedin.com/in/karenmangia

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

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