In my last blog post, I reflected on what it means to begin a new decade and how rich the coming years will be if we focus on setting intentions.
Part of that intentionality is being open to the idea of shedding old beliefs about who we are, what we do, and what we feel we are supposed to do. One of the questions I posed in the blog post was, “What do you need to let go of in 2020?”
In my own life and in my clients’ lives, I often notice that others’ expectations weigh most heavily and cause us the most distress. Personally, I am someone who can get overwhelmed more often than I would like. When I dig deeper into that sense of overwhelm and try to pinpoint the underlying expectations that are the driving force behind it, I start to realize that many of the expectations I work so hard to meet aren’t actually mine; they’re coming from someone else.
I should mention that I’m speaking generally, as in, the expectations I feel pressured to fulfill usually aren’t coming from one individual person. They are most often societal pressures that I have taken on personally.
This discovery made me curious to continue exploring the expectations that I have been unconsciously holding for myself without realizing that I don’t even really believe in them!
Expectations from Others and Society
I think it’s valuable to distinguish which expectations you hold for yourself, and which expectations you’ve taken on as a result of someone else — or society — pushing them on you.
Try answering these questions:
- What expectations does your boss have of you?
- What expectations does your team at work have of you?
- What expectations does your significant other have of you?
- What expectations does society have of you?
I recently asked myself these same questions as part of my annual year-end reflection on what I want to be better or different in my business in the new year.
At the end of 2019, I found myself filled up to the brim with expectations, and started to feel overwhelmed. Thoughts like “I expect my business will grow 50% in 2020” were rattling through my head and causing anxiety until I paused for examination.
Upon reflection, I realized that… well, of course I expect that my business is going to keep growing, and of course I’ll have a new, bigger, better goal for 2020, but I don’t need my business to double in size! In fact, what I really want is to be more efficient in my business and more discerning with the work I take on. This alone will lead to growth.
What a revelation. In that moment, I was able to pinpoint the difference between an expectation I had adopted from somewhere else, and an expectation I wanted for myself.
Connect with Your Own Expectations
What else is the Universe, society, some article on Instagram or Facebook telling you to do? The blogs I read often peddle “5 More Ways to Do THIS!” Or “10 Things You SHOULD Be Doing!”
Yikes. By the end, I have 175 more things to do every day, and they’re all things someone else thinks I “should” be doing.
It’s time for the “shoulds” of the world to step aside. It’s time to get back to a quiet inner space rather than a cluttered, loud inner space filled with overwhelm. Ask yourself, “Is that really my expectation? Really? Or is it someone else’s?”
The concept of never doing enough is particularly difficult for women, who are constantly bombarded with societal messaging telling us that we have to do more and be more. And it’s just not true!
What’s Most Important Right Now?
In the conversation about “should,” I always come back to my core values. What’s most important to me right now? My top values are freedom, flexibility and inspired connection, which means creating connections with people where either I am inspired by them or I have an opportunity to make a positive impact on someone else.
When I’m living in alignment with those core values, I don’t get overwhelmed. I don’t hear “should” as much, and I am able to quiet my mind.
And when I live in alignment with those values, I am better equipped to handle the “shoulds” when they pop up. Here’s my test: If I can substitute the word “excited”, “want” or “looking forward to” for “should,” and feel really good about it, then I know it’s something I want for myself (as opposed to an expectation someone else holds for me).
For example: if “I should go to the gym” easily becomes “I get to go to the gym” then I know it’s something that is in alignment with my own personal values and expectations — not someone else’s!
Questions to Get Started
This week, I encourage you to look at areas of your life where you may be putting forth a lot of effort to live up to someone else’s expectations. Here are some questions to help you get started:
- Where does the word “should” or “have to” pop up in your day-to-day?
- Can you exchange “should” or “have to” for something more positive (“get to,” “excited to,” “looking forward to”) and feel good about it?
- What are your top core values, and how does it feel when you live in alignment with them?
- What expectation from someone else will give yourself permission to let go of right now?