Let’s say you’re heading out of town for the holidays, sure you’re going to enjoy the best time of your life. You expect everyone to be happy and everything to go smoothly, with hugs, loads of gifts and a big, fat Christmas ham on the table.

When you have such grandiose, preconceived ideas of what your holidays will look like, however, you’re playing with a fire that can burn you at every turn. That’s because if things DON’T work out the way your mind is already insisting they must, you’re going to have a miserable time.

And things are prone to unfolding however they so please, no matter how pretty the picture that resides in your mind. For example, let’s say:

  • Your flight ends up delayed for three hours.  
  • Everyone you run into at the airport is a crankball.
  • The airline loses your luggage.
  • You get to your destination and half the people you thought were coming aren’t.
  • The other half consists of people that don’t really hug and didn’t bring gifts.
  • You get served a Christmas turkey instead of a Christmas ham.

While the above sequence of events could be enough to irk even the most even-keeled folks, the turn of events could be even more horrific for those who set up expectations that things will go smoothly, everyone will be happy, and they’ll be treated to lots of gifts and a Christmas ham.

Yes, expectations can be dangerous things. We’re in essence setting the stage for what things SHOULD be like – how people SHOULD act, how the weather SHOULD behave, how events SHOULD unfold – only to be crushed into mincemeat when none of the SHOULDS come to fruition.

There’s a keen quote that sums it all up:

Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.

And we already know resentments  are something we want to get rid of it, not add to every time something doesn’t go our way.

So we should just expect everything to suck then?

OK, you say. So it’s dangerous to expect everything to go perfectly, since it usually doesn’t, and I don’t feel like getting all kinds of resentments. Then why not just expect everything to turn out horribly, and then be pleasantly surprised when it doesn’t?

Because that’s an annoying way to live. I know a few folks who do this and swear it’s highly effective. But I used to do it myself and found myself becoming cranky and disgusted about anything I had to do, since I was already envisioning it as being a real pain in the keister.

Besides, such negative thoughts can also act like a giant magnet, actually attracting more negativity into your life. It’s an open door for negative outcomes and other horrible things to come your way. You probably want that even less than you want resentments hanging around.

No expectations = no resentments 

Instead of setting up expectations of how things ought to be, try heading into situations with an open mind. Whatever is going to happen will happen either old way, so you may as well accept it and go with the flow.

Get extra credit by not only making the best of whatever comes your way, but even finding a positive slant on it. We have no control over what people do or things that happen, but we can control our reactions to them.

  • A flight delay? Use the time to do yoga at the airport.
  • A holiday party with no gifts? Take it as a sign to stop obsessing about the material and quit buying new shoes you don’t need.
  • And a Christmas turkey instead of a ham? Keep in mind that white meat turkey has fewer calories and more micronutrients than ham, so you’re eating healthier than you ever imagined.

How do you like that? What could have been a terrible horrible holiday when your expectations were dashed just turned into a chance to enhance your flexibility, spirituality and eating habits. And yes, people do stare when you do yoga at the airport. But if you don’t expect them not to, you’ll be just fine.

Want more ways to make the most of your holidays (or any day)? Try Rynski Coaching.

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