Do you start your mornings with expectations of a good day, where you won’t have to deal with stress? Maybe you take some time to meditate, and feel peaceful, and maybe you expect your family will naturally respect your peace and not interrupt it. But they don’t. And then maybe you feel a little ticked off. Or maybe a lot. By breakfast you are snapping at your husband or your kids, and when you drive to work some idiot runs a red light and almost hits you, and you wonder what the heck just happened. You tried to do the right things, so how can it go wrong so fast, and leave you feeling totally stressed.
I wish I could say I am above such quick mood changes, but I am not. A similar scenario to the one above happens to me all the time. I can vault out of a calm state in seconds, and all too often come out swinging, because all my ego sees is someone in my space. Someone in the way of my plans. Someone with the audacity to have their own agenda. Of course, everyone we encounter has their own agendas. They don’t intentionally disrupt us. They just don’t see whatever is so important to us, because they see what is important to them.
Does this mood change mean our meditation was meaningless, or our peace wasn’t real? No, it just means we expect the wrong things from people around us. And when those expectations are disappointed, stress hits us by surprise and knocks us for a loop.
Expect goodness in people, but goodness does not mean perfection.
Expecting the best in people is a healthy way to begin seeing the good in everyone. People tend to live up to our expectations. Plus, our point of view changes when we look beyond their faults. But expecting the best does not mean they will see our point of view. Nor does it mean they even understand what we want.
A lot of the stress we feel from unmet expectations happens because we cannot understand why other people don’t see things our way. We may wonder what’s wrong with these people. Don’t they know the right way to drive, to talk, to eat, to vote, or whatever bugs us? We forget all about the good in people, or the blessings in our lives, because we can’t see beyond our grievances. Every little annoyance becomes a tiny battle. Even if we don’t voice our frustration, inside we feel under siege.
Learn to express what you like and what you don’t.
I believe that basically most people want to do what they think is right. Where we create stress for ourselves and those around us is when we assign right and wrong for things that really don’t matter. Take newlyweds, for example. Our mothers probably taught us all a right and wrong way to do household chores. When two people grow up with different ideas of how to do things, and they start a life together, they may have very different ideas of how things are supposed to be done. And they can find themselves arguing about how to hang the toilet paper or where the toothpaste goes.
We don’t always realize that for a lot of life, there is no right or wrong. There are only opinions. So instead of trying to get someone else to see the “right” way, acknowledge that you have a different opinion, and be honest about it. Fess up and say, “I like it this way.” If the other person likes it differently, then you have a starting point to reach a compromise. If the issue is a small one, and you expect the other person will never change their mind, save yourself a battle and just give in. Learning to be more flexible is a terrific antidote for stress.
Take a little inventory of your expectations.
Do you expect people to know what you are thinking? Are you willing to respect people’s right to disagree? How often do you give serious consideration to other people’s needs? Would a little generosity on your part mean less stress for everyone around you?
By revising your expectations of other people, and how the world should run, you may realize you are stressed over things you can’t control. Choosing to stop trying to manage every little thing, lightens your stress load, and allows you to enjoy more things just the way they are.
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