Tag Archives: releasing expectations

Can’t do what you love (yet)? 6 ways to love what you do now (more).

how to love your job moreThey say Confucius wasn’t an over-privileged Gen-Y arsehole born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Apparently he had a few tough times, working as a shepherd, cowherd, clerk, and a book-keeper to make ends meet. He also said: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Well I don’t care how much animal shit you shovelled Confucius. You sound like a smug bastard to me.

Why am I so shitty at a dead Chinese philosopher I hear you ask? Well because I am supposedly doing “a job I love” but it still feels like work. And bloody hard work too.

What Confucius should have said is: “Choose a job you think you might love eventually and you will have to work quite hard for quite a while with some considerable mental, emotional and financial obstacles, but at least you won’t be doing something you hate for people you don’t like very much so that’s got to be better. Right?”

I’m on the path to loving what I do but I’m a fair way from the end goal. So here’s how I’m trying to love what I’m doing now.

1. Focus on just 1 person your current work benefits
Maybe you’re a barista who want to be an artist. But that beautifully made coffee served with a smile made someone’s morning. Maybe that insurance policy you sold will mean that one family won’t have to deal with financial insecurity as well as their grief. If your work contributes to someone else’s wellbeing in any way – and most jobs do – it’s work worth doing.

2. Make your workspace beautiful
Whatever your current job, chances are you’re spending a good chunk of your life in one space. Is your workspace inspiring creativity? The first thing to do is declutter and clean. Then add a green plant or two (known to boost productivity, keep you focused and reduce stress) and a piece of art for a dash of personality and inspiration. Some minimalists recommend blank walls in your workspace to avoid distraction, but if you’re computer based, I think the most dangerous distraction is the internet. Work offline if productivity‘s your goal.

3. Leave when you leave
Being mindful and present in your current work will help you find the good in what you do, but If you don’t love your current job, leave it behind at home time. Don’t check work email on your phone. Reclaim your headspace through meditation, exercise, yoga or working towards what you do love. Your time is precious. Use it wisely.

4. Practice gratitude

My husband bought me a bracelet for Christmas. It has a silver charm engraved with the words “I am grateful”. I love glancing down at it throughout the day when my kids are being shits or I’m tired – whenever I need a reminder about the good stuff. The people I love and who love me. My home. My friends. A full tummy. A cuddle. Instead of focusing on what your career is lacking, consider all the things your work does give you – security, money, experience – and be grateful for them.

5. Don’t compare yourself to others
She has her own business. She’s successful. Happy. She’s made it. Well maybe. But you don’t know how long or how bumpy her journey has been. You don’t know about her bad days and her hard times and her self-doubt and her almost-threw-in-the-towel moments. Comparisons are pointless. Concentrate on your own path. No one else will walk it but you.

6. Celebrate your accomplishments
Did you take a step towards your ‘heart’ work today? Maybe you signed up for a blog site or made a new connection on LinkedIn. However small your step, celebrate it. Most people go through life with dreams, but dreams stay dreams if you don’t take action. Reward yourself for even the babiest of baby steps.

I’ll wrap it up with a couple of Confucius quotes that don’t make me want to punch him in the face.

Firstly, “Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it.” Find the beauty in the work you’re doing now – it does exist.

And secondly, “It does not matter how slow you go as long as you do not stop.” So keep going. You might have to shovel shit for a while but if every shovelful is uncovering the path to what you love, it’ll smell much sweeter.

Image courtesy of gratisography.

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The change challenge — how to handle stepping into the unknown

Change is a challenge. Get unstuckUntil very recently, I had a day job. It was writing, but it wasn’t really. It paid the bills but it left my creativity account empty — a little overdrawn even.

The job took more than it gave. It gave me numbers on a screen. It gave my family some financial security. But along with my creativity, it took away my confidence, my time, my head space, and my sense of self-worth.

And I let it. For five years.

Dramatic eh?

But that’s done now. I’m freelancing. No more depressing commutes. No more tears. No more sinking Sunday feeling.

So why do I feel so numb?

I expected to feel immediately elated by the change. To feel different from day one. But although I’m glad I’m not at the day job, I just feel overwhelmed, a bit blue and (inconveniently) a little bit stuck.

A change is as good as a rest, they say. But that’s bollocks — real change is scary, confronting and bloody hard work. Because it’s stepping into the unknown.

Here’s how I’m coping with the challenge of change.

Focus on the positive
In the first week of freelancing I had some less-than-average feedback on my work. It had never really happened before and it was a shock. It made me question my drastic career change. I also received three beautiful ‘no changes required, love your work and thanks’ emails. But I focused on the shit feedback and let that define my beginning. Flip it. Embrace the good stuff. Be grateful for each small success. If you’re struggling, write the positives down. By acknowledging only the positive, it becomes the star of your show. The negative fades into the background.

Change takes time
We’re bombarded with media that tells us we can get the perfect job/man/figure in JUST ONE WEEK! You know that’s unrealistic, but someone’s doing it. Right? Wrong. It’s spin. No one is doing it. No one. When you measure your progress during change against a benchmark that’s pure fantasy, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Real, lasting change takes time. Take it step by step and day by day. Give yourself time to adapt. Breathe. Nurture your change and let it grow.

Stop expecting perfection
For 5 years I built up a fantasy of what it would be like when I finally made the change and left my job. It would be perfect. I would wake at 6am to do yoga, meditate, have a nourishing breakfast, be present with my kids, then glide serenely into 8 hours of creatively fulfilling, well-paid and well-received work, taking breaks to sip green tea and snack on super foods. The reality? A little different. My  expectation of perfection wasn’t realised, so I felt disappointed, resentful, angry, unsatisfied and unseen. In the choppy waters of change, unrealistic expectations weigh you down. Release them.

Pin it to win it
This may come as a shock to you but I was once unemployed for a couple of quite depressing months. I put up a proper old-school cork board. I cut out photos from magazines and pinned them up on my vision board for inspiration. It sounds wanky, but it helped. When you’re struggling with the day-to-day of change, it can be fun to visualise your future success.

Keep going
If you want to make change work badly enough, you will — despite the inevitable stumbles and slip ups. Guilt about failure can be debilitating. Be your own best friend. Be kind to yourself, encourage yourself, celebrate your progress, however small. If you persist, you will succeed.

Change is challenging and scary. But what I’m trying to remember is that not changing is even scarier. Embrace the uncertainty. Life isn’t meant to stay the same. There will be highs and lows. Your job is not to control the ebb and flow — it’s to learn to ride the waves.

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Image courtesy of gratisography.

I must be liked by everyone… and other unrealistic self-expectations

Expectations of selfYesterday, I got the “I hate you and everything you stand for” face from a barista. I asked for a 3/4 latte. I got a half pour so asked for a tiny top up. She gave me the face.

This woman is not my local barista. I will never see her again. She will not feature in the movie of my life and, if hadn’t got the face, I would never have given her a second thought post 3/4 latte.

So why did I spend the rest of the day replaying our milk-based passive aggression over and over in my mind?

Because everyone has to like me. Everyone. Even the people I don’t like. Because if I’m not likeable, I am a failure.

I know this is absolutely ridiculous. And this is just one of the many unrealistic expectations I place on myself.

Other self-imposed expectations include a Branson-like career trajectory, Buddha-like patience, JK Rowling’s bank balance, Zen Habits-style blog success, a model-esque appearance and perfect parent status. What could possible go wrong?

A few weeks ago, I talked about letting go of the great expectations we have of others. Self-imposed expectations are even more dangerous, so here are my top tips for getting rid of those unrealistic little suckers.

Drop the word “should” from your vocabulary
Do you start sentences with “I should really…” and end them by feeling shit because you haven’t, didn’t, won’t?

Should is the most dangerous word in the English language. I should be thinner. My salary should be higher. I should be married by now. I should be exercising/meditating/eating healthy/drinking less.

Should makes you feel bad. Should translates to “I am wrong. I am not good enough.” Try using “could” instead. Could is a choice word. Unlike should, could isn’t shrouded in shame and guilt. It allows you space to think about why you’re not [fill in blank here]. Perhaps it’s simply because you don’t want to. Perhaps your shame and guilt has been defeating you. Should is an obstacle. Move it out of your way.

Be realistic about change 
Change is hard. It takes time. Be patient with yourself. Instead of berating yourself for not finishing the chapter of your novel, pat yourself on the back for those few incredible paragraphs you did write. Rather than feeling like a failure because you didn’t get to three yoga classes this week, congratulate yourself for getting to one and focus on how much your body and mind has benefitted.

Risk disapproval, then embrace it
As you may have guessed by the barista experience, this is a tricky one for me. But usually when others disapprove of you, it’s their issue. Push the envelope. Live your dream. Hit a nerve. The other option is you don’t do anything and they won’t care either way. And that’s much more scary.

Stop comparing yourself to other people
Yes, I’d love Wellbeing bites to be as big as Zen Habits. But it’s not Zen Habits. Yes, I’d love to look like Eva Mendes. But I’m not sure I could cope with the pressure of being Mrs Gosling anyway (well, maybe I could live with it). It’s so easy to compare yourself to others. But you will never be others. You will always be you. Perfect, flawed and fabulous you. You are epic. Go be you. Go be epic.

Today I went back to my usual barista. He gave me a 3/4 latte with a perfect little heart on top. And a smile. It was unexpected. And I think that’s why it felt so good.

What unrealistic expectations do you place on yourself? Any tips on how to manage your self-expectations? Please leave me a comment — I need all the help I can get.

Image by Ryan McGuire from www.gratisography.com

Great expectations — and why releasing them is the key to happiness

Releasing great expectations NonnettaI’ve been expecting. Expecting my kids to behave perfectly. Expecting my hard work to be praised and rewarded. Expecting my efforts to be noticed. Expecting my blog to be shared and liked and followed. Expecting my friends and family to care about ‘my stuff’ as much as I do.

My great expectations are starting to get the better of me. Because, of course, these expectations are rarely met.

That’s not because my kids are mean, my colleagues are nasty, my blog isn’t liked, or my friends and family are unsupportive. It’s just that when you expect others to act in a certain way, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. They have their own agendas, their own wants, their own expectations. Your expectations are not top of their lists.

Buddhists call this holding on to unrealistic expectations ‘the wanting mind’ or ‘the hungry ghost’. Unfulfilled expectations make for an unhappy life. When your expectations aren’t realised, you feel disappointed, resentful, angry, unsatisfied, unseen.

You become a hungry ghost.

Are your expectations haunting you? Here are five ways to release your expectations and make way for happiness.

1. Be mindful of your expectations

When you catch yourself expecting/wanting from others, or from a situation, stop. Ask why. Are you expecting others to validate your emotions? Have you supported that person in the past and expect them to do the same for you now? If you figure out why you’re expecting, it’s much easier to let the expectation go.

2. Separate your wants from your ‘shoulds’

Do your expectations reflect your true ‘wants’, or are they reflecting ‘shoulds’? Shoulds are expectations imposed by others. Do you expect recognition from others because what you’re doing is a ‘should’ not a ‘want’? Usually, if you’re doing what you really want, not what you feel you should, you won’t have expectations of others because you won’t need their validation or praise.

3. Put yourself in the shoes of others 

Are you perfect? Are you a mind reader? No. Neither are they. Remember that everyone is just doing their best, just like you. And your perfect may be their not-so-perfect. However, If your basic needs aren’t being met by the people you care about and you really feel let down, tell them. If you don’t communicate clearly, resentment will build up on both sides and may explode as anger if left unchecked.

4. Reframe and look for the positive

You expected to be fulfilled and praised at work. You expected your business to do better. You expected your kids to tidy up after themselves. You expected your partner to cook dinner. That’s the negative. What about the good stuff? Maybe your work pays well, which allows you to pursue your real passion. Maybe those business ‘failings’ have taught you how to succeed next time. Maybe your kids are messy but they sleep all night and tell you they love you every day. Maybe your partner had a shitty day and thought take-out might make a nice change. Reframing is a great first step to creating an attitude of gratitude.

5. Take back responsibility for your happiness

When you have great expectations of others, you give responsibility for you own happiness away. But you know no one else can make you happy. Own your actions. Own your emotions. Cheer yourself on. Love yourself more. Be proud of your achievements. Pat yourself on the back.

The solution is simple (not easy, but simple). As Leo Babauta from Zen Habits puts it: “Take your expectations, and throw them in the ocean.”

When you get rid of your great expectations, you free yourself up to enjoy things as they are instead of the way you think they should be. You’ll also make way for a great wave of happiness. Now all you’ve got to do is learn to ride it….

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Great expectations image by Nonetta.