How to let go of expectations for a happier Christmas

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How to let go of expectations for a happier Christmas

Expectations set us up for failure every single time. Fear uses expectations against us to support our negative beliefs or to hold us (and others) to unrealistic standards. Thus keeping us trapped in the merry-go-round of being controlled by our fears instead of living in the moment in freedom and letting life unfold as it is meant to. At Christmas time our fears and consequently our expectations run rampant and so here is how to let go of expectations for a happier Christmas.

What is an expectation?

The act or state of expectation and expecting, according to the thesaurus, is looking ahead in anticipation with a degree of probability that something will likely occur. So basically when you have expectations you are living in the future (which is where fear resides) instead of the present moment. Hence limiting yourself to possibilities.

How expectations of outcomes set us up for failure

There are two types of expectations. One is expecting people, things, events, and outcomes to occur that are “good” and the other is to expect the outcome to be “bad”. Both of these expectations set you up for disappointment and failure.

For example, if you only ever expect things to always work out well then you run the risk of being naïve and not adequately preparing for the alternative. At Christmas time, if you expect your favourite butcher to have a turkey for you and you leave it to the last minute to pick up, then you run the risk of having to just eat ham. It’s like expecting adults to always drink responsibly, it doesn’t always happen.

In comparison, if you are always expecting the worst to happen and things to not work out at all in your favour then it could effect you just as much because you may never give anything a go and never give people the opportunity to better themselves or be different. For example, at Christmas time, you may forgo going to the company Christmas party because “there are never any single men there” or “it’s always so boring”. If you don’t go, then it’s easier to believe you were right but you also may miss out on the opportunity to a) have fun and b) meet Mr Right.

Some would argue that it’s good to have “bad” expectations so that you can prepare for a particular outcome and I agree but only to a certain degree. It’s definitely good to be prepared, as long as your preparation allows for the possibility of the outcome also being different so that it is left open to have the opportunity of being even better than you could have imagined. Don’t limit what’s possible by expecting it always to be “bad”.

How expectations of people set us up for disappointment

As humans, it’s natural to have expectations of other people based on our previous experiences however that doesn’t make it right. When you expect people to behave a certain way, especially when you expect them to behave as you do, you are only setting yourself up for disappointment because humans are exactly that…human. So they have the ability to change their mind, behaviour, beliefs and actions.

The flip side of that is because humans have the ability to change, by expecting people to always behave the same, you consequently don’t give them the opportunity to change (which everyone is capable of), and therefore to grow and evolve. If you expect the worst of them, then you are keeping them stuck in the past looking in their rear view mirror all the time.

How expectations of ourselves set us up for exhaustion

This one is the one I am guilty of the most…having unrealistic expectations of myself. Setting myself up to fall. Giving myself way too much to do and not enough time to do it. And, expecting myself to do it perfectly first time and sometimes even every time. Whenever I do this, it always ends up in tears and with me in exhaustion because no-one is perfect and that’s what makes us who we are.

When we have such high expectations of ourselves we also tend to do everything by ourself because we don’t trust that someone else can do it as well as we can (another expectation). Yes, you may be able to cook a smorgasbord Christmas lunch that would impress even Jamie Oliver but at what expense? Is it really worth the stress or could you invite your sister to cook the turkey and your brother to bring the desert and spread the responsibilities a bit and then have enough energy left over to actually enjoy it?

How to let go of expectations for a happier Christmas

Here are my five favourite ways to let go of expectations:

1. Expect the best, prepare for the worst

I believe it’s important to always strive for and believe that the best outcome is what’s going to happen. To paint a picture in your mind of how you want it to be and go for it. But, to also be prepared in case it doesn’t work out that way by having contingency plans in place as in plan B, C and D. There’s a great quote that I feel sums it up perfectly: “Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes”. – Zig Ziglar

2. Focus on what really matters

Sometimes we can get lost in the appearance of things or the little things like the Christmas napkins having to be red and the tinsel having to be the right colour but the reality is, and I learnt this at my recent wedding, none of that really matters! What’s important at Christmas time is that you all come together in love and no-one is going to even remember what colour the napkins were.

3. Give yourself a break superwoman

Drop the expectation of yourself that you have to be perfect. This is just your fear of not being good enough playing out. You are enough, just as you are, raw and real and beautiful and those that matter to you the most, love you because of you, not because of what you do. So… Let yourself off the hook occasionally and ask for help, delegate.

4. Give people the opportunity to be different

Hold a space for the opportunity that people can behave differently and do have the ability to change. You never know, they might just surprise you with what they are capable of when given the chance.

5. Release your attachment to the outcome

Let it be whatever it’s meant to be and practice living in the moment. Just because Christmas has always been done a certain way, doesn’t mean it has to be the same this year. Shake it up a little. Trust that you can handle whatever shows up. It may not be perfect but it will be wonderful.

Note:  If your expectations are getting the better of you this Christmas and you’d like support to step out of it, please feel free to book a one-off session with me here

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