Last week a friend showed up to our lunch looking like she’d sucked on a lime.
She immediately started telling me how frustrated she was with her husband because he hadn’t come through on something she needed.
Now this friend has been married for 30 years. Three. Zero. And I have heard many, many similar tales.
And so I asked her: “how many times has your husband come through for you?”
She didn’t hesitate. “None!”
“Then why would you expect him to do it this time?” She thought for a second and shrugged.
So I told her the following. “You need to change your expectations.”
I submit to you that most, if not all of us set ourselves up regularly by expecting things we know, deep down, are not going to happen.
Then we get frustrated or feel like a failure when they don’t.
We don’t do this intentionally, but we do it nonetheless, in both our personal and professional lives.
We do it because we feel like these things should happen.
And maybe they should. But we all know life is not that simple.
So make your day better. Change your expectations.
To be clear, I am not saying to change your dreams, or accept anything less from your organization but the highest level of excellence. I am not saying to aim for the status quo.
I am saying that your day will be better if you understand that there are some universal truths in it, and then you plan on how to manage them effectively.
Here’s an example.
When I was an executive director I used to buy into the quite common belief that my board, if pushed and trained enough, would not just embrace fundraising, but become really good at it.
It never happened. After years of feeling frustrated and resentful (and supporting my staff in doing the same), I finally realized the universal truth.
Most of us really don’t like asking for money. Quite a few of us loathe it. And very, very few are actually good at it. Board members are no exception.
So I changed my expectations. I knew the board needed to be involved in some way, but I didn’t create a budget that relied on it.
I set up feasible goals, brought in trainers, and provided opportunities for the few who shined at asking for money.
I then worked with the others on the more realistic fundraising strategies – sitting in on site visits, attending events, and giving the organization a donation they could afford.
Was it ideal? No. Was it realistic? Absolutely. Was my life less frustrating as a result? You bet.
How many times a day do we do this to ourselves without knowing it?
How many times do we think our staff won’t react emotionally to an organizational change just because we are really, really careful about how we talk about it? (they will).
How many times do we think the board will just approve the budget without any questions or uncomfortable moments of conflict? (they won’t – and shouldn’t)
How many times do we think we won’t get a parking ticket this time, even though we’re way over on time? (we will. trust me on this one.)
And what happens next? We get frustrated or we feel like failures. We don’t understand why life is so unfair. Things shouldn’t be this way.
Maybe not. But they are.
There is nothing wrong with setting lofty goals or expecting the best out of your life.
You trip yourself up when you expect something you know won’t happen, and then allow yourself to feel frustrated or like a failure when it doesn’t.
I ask you now…what are your life’s universal truths?
What are you expecting from your staff or your boss or your board, from your friends or your family…from your diet or your old computer or your new puppy that, in reality, is not going to happen?
Knowing your truths is the first step. Accepting them means a guaranteed better day. Figuring out how you’ll manage them is how you make your life better in the long run.
Now, go do good…and do it well.