So many people live their lives in reactionary mode. They react to circumstances and they react to the expectations and judgments of those around them.
This is so sad because there is no way to have inner peace or live your best life if you’re constantly reacting to other peoples’ opinions! But, at the same time, it’s important to remember there is wisdom in some expectations. For example, if your family or close friends know you’re going to be successful, they will hold you to that expectation to achieve that. They’ll have certain ideas on what that might look like, too.
And that’s where you have to be careful. It’s ok for me to expect my daughter to turn in her homework and reach a certain level of success in school. After all, that’s her job at this time, plus I know she’s fully capable and I’m well aware how today’s schoolwork will affect her future goals. But she also needs to have that same expectation of herself so she can put in the hard work…and so that she can identify the steps required to accomplish good grades in school.
What I shouldn’t do is force my expectations of study habits on her. That’s not to say I shouldn’t expect her to study. But I can’t force her to study MY way. She has to figure out the best way for her to study, how far in advance of a due date she needs to prepare, and so on. I can give reminders about her homework as a way of holding her accountable. I can also help her identify ways she can study and learn. Ultimately, she needs to identify and stick with her ideal study method–the one she has used successfully in past homework assignments. I can’t expect her to study exactly like me–because she’s not me! I can expect her to do well in school, however.
In turn, in order to do well in school, my daughter may need to ignore the peer pressure of friends telling her to come out to various social events. We all have the same 24 hours in a day…and she needs to use a lot of that time on her schoolwork. Her friends may say “oh, you’re such a school nerd,” or something like that…and in order to for her to continue doing well in school, she will need to ignore their opinions of her and how she spends her time.
The thing is, many of us reached motherhood and took on heavy family and life responsibilities…and along the way, we took to heart the often meaningless expectations from family, friends, other mothers, and society in general. Parenting and life events are already fraught with emotion and questions. So, while handling our responsibilities, the jabs and opinions of others wears away our self-confidence until we find ourselves reacting to what people say instead of proactively managing our lives. We’re unable to set expectations and goals for our own lives because we’re waaayyy to busy listening and reacting to the opinions of others!
How exhausting! And unnecessary. The reality is, we know what’s best for us and our families. And the best way to care for others and to manage our responsibilities is for us to set our own expectations of ourselves. Below is a framework to go about that.
- Identify a current problem you’re dealing with. This could be anything like your son being involved with a bad crowd and you want to move him away from his current school and neighborhood. Or it could be that you want a job that lets you work from home with schedule and income freedom because you’re simply to stressed all the time and struggle to manage a schedule of full-time work and kids.
- Now write that problem down on paper.
- Next figure out how it will disrupt the family. If you need to move, will other children and their education be affected? Will it also include a better home for the family? Write down all the ways it could change or disrupt the current state of things.
- Then write down how you will deal with these changes. Maybe your other kids want to switch schools, or maybe others are set to graduate, so it won’t matter if you move anyway.
- Then, mentally set the expectation that you will make that change, knowing it’s best for you and your family! Sometimes writing this down, along with the “why” behind it is super helpful.
If people judge you and question what you’re doing, come back with your “why,” e.g., you want to take your son away from bad influences, you want more out of a career and you want to be there for your family, etc. Remind them that you also expect yourself to take care of you and your family…and this is how you’re doing it.
Lastly, enjoy the peace and freedom that comes with setting your own expectations, and doing what’s best for you and your family!