Too High or Too Low…Beware of Setting Irrational Holiday Expectations (and 6 Tips to Maintain a Realistic Mindset)

too high or too low

We’ve all done it. We develop expectations of our children, friends, family and of events only to be disappointed.

It could be an event we’re attending, or one we’re hosting.

It starts innocently. We pencil in a date on a calendar to go on a date, celebrate with family, attend an event, or just spend time with friends or family. We get excited.

Don’t get me wrong, being excited is a GOOD thing. In fact, if I’m spending time with someone, I WANT to look forward to it.

BUT. Sometimes, this excitement transforms into something unpleasant…and sometimes, into something downright ugly.

In our excitement, we start thinking of all the fun things that can happen,  and how lovely we will feel. Of course, we assume everyone there will be just as excited as us.

That would be a good place to STOP.

But often, we start to get carried away. We begin to assume that our version of events is what will work best for everyone. We jump down a rabbit hole and imagine everything we anticipate in vivid color. Our imagination skews the event to fit our personal desires and we anticipate something PERFECT.

Perfect is a dangerous word.

Perhaps we think our children will be elated with an activity, even if they’ve never done it before. We just know our family will make lasting memories and how everyone will never forget them.

Of course, everyone will be on their best behavior, our daughter will nap, and even if the kids go to bed late, it will be fine because everyone is having SO. Very. Much. FUN!

This daydream becomes our EXPECTATION for real life.

These types of expectations are not just silly, they are irrational.

Now, if something goes wrong, we’ve built things up in our mind so much that we may now find ourselves in the place of disappointment. We may end up trying to make others do our bidding, instead of just enjoying the moments as they happen.

OR, conversely, maybe the problem is not perfect expectations, but no expectation at all. Sometimes, we have such low expectations we assume NOTHING will go well, and we dread the event all together.

Do you ever find yourself dreading an event? Perhaps you booked it a while ago and now you don’t feel like going. Or maybe you booked so many things that now the next event just feels like just a hassle. Perhaps it is across town, late at night, or you are tired from a long week and just want to stay home.

There is plenty of danger here too.

When we expect the worst, we are likely to show up with such a poor attitude, that we may rob others of joy. We put ourselves in the mindset that something will NOT be fun, and then we’re surprised when we do not have fun.

We may take for granted, and poison someone’s efforts, good intentions and goodwill. 

Bad attitudes are infectious.

So what ARE we to do? I think there are a few practical tips we can follow.

6 Tips

6 Tips to Maintain a Realistic Mindset:

1. Choose to Have Fun

Walk into the event with an attitude that YOU will choose to have fun, regardless of what happens. No matter how many daydreams you’ve perfected, set them aside and CHOOSE joy, regardless of what happens, who comes (or doesn’t come), who throws a tantrum, or who leaves early. If you’ve simply decided the event will not be fun, stop, check your bad attitude at the door, and CHOOSE to go into it with an open mind, and to find something or someone you enjoy. Remember, Christmas isn’t about you, or your family, or your friends…it is about JESUS. Having that in mind will make it hard to be focused on your desires. Also, be wary of dragging others into your poor expectations, because it will be more difficult to break free and enjoy yourself while you’re commiserating with someone else. Find someone who is having fun, and join in their fun. Misery loves company, but so does JOY!

2. Leave Room For Spontaneity

While is nice to have some back up activities or ice breakers to use in case the party gets slow, don’t have everything so planned out that you leave no room for spontaneity. Go with the flow and don’t force something that seems to put a halt to good that’s already happening. Be open to others ideas and suggestions and if you don’t get to everything, be OK with it. Put your efforts into helping everyone else have fun, and you will too!

3. Laugh It Off

Often times, the worst thing you imagine happening (a burnt dinner, saying the wrong thing, or something else totally unexpected) becomes a topic for laughter for years to come. It’s all about how you handle it. Sometimes it is hard when something we worked hard on doesn’t turn out, or we find ourselves embarrassed. But, it can be done, regardless of what happens. When something goes wrong (and let’s be honest, something will go wrong), choose to make light of it, and move on to enjoying the moment.

4.  It’s Not About the Event, It’s About The Company

It isn’t about the perfect meal, activity, or gift. The joy is in the people who are there with you. Spend time with THEM instead of analyzing whether your plan is going well or if they are living up to any expectation you may have had. All these people came to the event and most of them are probably in a pretty good mood and hoping to have fun.

5. When It Comes to Children, Expect NOTHING!

Two years ago we took our son to Big Truck Day. He loves trucks and we expected him to be elated, to laugh, and to, well, love it. What happened? He cried most of the time, overwhelmed by all the people and noise, and we left with him screaming when he saw a person dressed up like Curious George (who was apparently TERRIFYING). Just because the idea is well-intention-ed and seems like a great fit, doesn’t mean a child will see it the same way you do. And, anytime sleep is lost, or over-stimulation is possible, give them a lot of room to act however they are feeling. Instead, take a step back and let their reaction surprise you, and marvel at how unique they are.

6. Be OK Staying Home, or Leaving Early

Just because you scheduled it doesn’t mean you have to go. Sometimes we have simply over-committed and taking a little time at home may be enough to set your mood right for the rest of the season. So, if your kids are over-tired, over-stimulated, ill, or if YOU are in that same place, it is OK to just stay home. It is your choice to attend or not. The people who invited you to the event love you, and while they want you there, they will understand if you can’t come. Be respectful: use tact, and honesty, and communicate using your VOICE not a text message or email. Perhaps you aren’t comfortable not attending. That is OK too. Go with an open mind, have fun for a while, and then bow out early. Or, if you find yourself where your children are falling apart, or you are falling apart or are detracting from the mood of the event, call it a night.

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