I’m making a bold prediction about what your holidays will be like: They will be pretty much as you expect.
Okay, so maybe it isn’t a bold prediction, but it is accurate. If you go into the holidays assuming they will be a hassle, they will. If you decide they will be a time of joy and celebration, they will.
Dreading putting up the Christmas tree will make doing so drudgery. Delighting in putting up the Christmas tree will make for a memorable activity.
Gift buying will perplex you if you approach it as an obligation. Seeing gift buying as a way to express your love and appreciation for the important people in your life will make it a delightful opportunity.
What accounts for the difference in all these scenarios? Expectation.
You tend to experience what you expect, not in matters of chance like winning the lottery, but in matters of everyday life where your thoughts, attitude and actions create results. Elbert Hubbard said, “We find what we expect to find.” Look for happiness or hassles and you will find it.
What is the power behind expectations? The answer: you take action based on what you expect.
I’ve been guilty of creating my own dread through negative expectations. After years of decorating outside the house for Christmas (I live on a street known for extravagant lighting), I began to dread doing it. It felt like meeting some kind of community obligation. After all, I reasoned, Christmas isn’t just about the decorations.
A funny thing happened when I decided this year I wouldn’t decorate.
I did. I decorated after all.
Since I felt no dread or obligation, I found myself with some free time over the long Thanksgiving weekend and started rummaging around in the garage for decorations. I didn’t have a grand plan. I just tested a few strands of lights and, if they worked, I put them up.
Simply put, I did something that I wanted to do rather than feeling like I had to do it. (And, realistically, there is very little we “have” to do during the holidays. We almost always have choices). We do best when we enjoy most. Expectations become self-fulfilling.
Here are five expectations I hope you’ll turn into action to make your holidays the best they can be:
- Expect to enjoy past memories. Relive the good times rather than the unpleasant ones. Don’t dwell on what happened that you can’t change. There is no upside to rehearsing what you didn’t enjoy (unless you can learn something from it).
- Expect to be of greater service. Do something for somebody else. Being of service to another breaks self-absorption. With so many in need around us, it shouldn’t be difficult to find a way to be of service.
- Expect better conversations. Engage in deeper conversations about things that matter. Small talk is, well, small. Ask better, deeper questions. Offer deeper, more thoughtful comments. Slow down and enjoy the exchange of information and ideas.
- Expect a brighter year ahead. You don’t know what will happen, but there are so many things that you can make happen with forethought and planning. Do more than make often short-lived resolutions and set some meaningful goals and schedule enjoyable events for the new year.
- Expect to beat the worry trap. Worry is rehearsing problems and situations that haven’t happened and may not occur. If you can change something, then change it and don’t worry about it. And if there’s something you can’t change, don’t worry about it either. It won’t help.