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How to Stop Setting Yourself up for Failure

Letting go of great expectations

Piggie the Pit Bull ponders life's 'Great Expectations' five months before her passing.  Photo by Katie Willis Rhodes

Life is a series of false starts. We get inspired, seize the day, fizzle out, set new goals, strive to meet the deadlines, make ourselves go harder, faster. We fall, we rise, repeat.  It’s exhausting. We feel like we are spinning our wheels, like we’re not as good as everyone else or not where we are ‘supposed to be’ at any given time.

We are told to ‘expect great things’. Think positively. Manifest the life of our dreams.

I have a button I wear proudly on my apron when I’m working in the kitchen to remind me great things are indeed coming. I expect them.  But what about when our expectations set us up to fail? Not real failure, per se, but perceived letdowns and more pain. Unnecessary struggle.

When we live by the expectations in our head, when our sights are so focused on the end goals, we miss the journey!

We curse the path required to get there. ‘There’ being some mystical emerald city glistening and beaconing from a distance. Everything will be better once we get ‘there’.

We deny ourselves the power of the experience life is trying to teach.

We are frustrated by the detours, the distractions, the details we must tend to, the dishes we must wash, the flat tire on the way to an interview, the kid calling crying they’ve forgotten their agenda at home so you must stop your creative flow once again and rush to the school.

We grumble and rage and don’t realize we are always exactly where we need to be, when we need to be.

There is no falling behind.

It’s a lesson I learn over and over again. In the rush to succeed, to obtain whatever shiny carrot I’ve placed in front of me for motivation, I forget to celebrate the micro-wins along the way. My exuberance over one achievement is way too quickly forgotten in my heightened pace to check off the next box on my to-list.

And if you get too caught up in the race, life is funny like that and will place the biggest road block possible to make you check yourself and any egoic expectations at the door.

It was not even a week into our new back-to-school schedule and all three of my kids were home sick.  How can I let frustration at the fact my expectations of a ‘great’ working day were ruined when I have the chance to cuddle them for another 12 hours of Netflix on the couch together? 

I kept thinking “Ok this it. Today is the day I rock out my goals, record the final videos for my online course, edit all the things, hit post on my social media stories, reach my word count for the day…” 

Sunny days, wide open and full of possibility and planned productivity, can take a sharp turn for the unexpected when a dear friend calls in need of support. The next thing you know you’re picking her up in your brand new car as she cradles her dying baby her arms, apologizing for the dog fur shed in the back. Within the hour you’re sitting in a tiny room at the VET as the life leaves the body of a beloved pet.

How can I say it’s a wasted day when I was honored with the opportunity to be there for a friend in one of her greatest moments of grief just because what I planned for the day didn’t end up matching up to reality? 

How can I hate missing out on reaching the arbitrary goals I’ve set for myself when real life is providing actual experiences that further my growths as a mother, human, friend?

Photo by Katie Willis Rhodes

Here’s how to stop setting yourself up for failure by expecting so much.

Don’t fight the reality of your NOW

Life is not going to go the way you planned. It’s just not. We may get lucky every once in a while and have a perfect day play out where everything goes exactly as we envision it in our head.

But when real life deviates and the plan suddenly changes, try to be easy with yourself. Often what replaces what we once thought we wanted is so much more than we could ever imagine. Have faith in life, God, the universe, YOURSELF. Everything is going to be Ok and turn out exactly as it was meant to be. Sometimes better than originally planned.

Don’t expect to know all the answers at once.

Sometimes the lesson is less than obvious. I’m still learning and growing from some of the crappy lessons life has thrown my way. Have you ever wondered “Why did that person, place, or thing show up in my life right now? What is the lesson here!?” It’s OK to not know or understand the answer to the why’s immediately. Give yourself the time and space to adjust to your ever changing reality.

Don’t be so hard on yourself!

Great expectations can motivate us towards manifesting the life of our dreams, but they can also lead to unnecessary disappointments. You ARE making forward progress. Allow yourself to live, just be, without so many limiting expectations. Sure, strive towards greatness and all you desire, but be flexible enough to bend and shift with the lessons life wants to deliver.

You will enjoy the experience so much more.

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