For quite some time I’ve been thinking about the incredible amount of pressure we’re constantly under to manage unreasonable workloads. Work is a part of life, whether you’re a mother, father, student, coach, laborer, manager… whatever season of life you are currently in work is the universal means to any worthwhile end. But is it just me, or can anyone else feel an overwhelming sense of expectation from… well that’s the question. Why have we all become so busy? Who are we trying to impress?
I think it’s important to identify the source of what drives us. Ask yourself these questions about the expectations we place on ourselves:
- Are they based on what your spouse thinks, believes, and expects? Your parents? Your Friends? We have endless amounts of people who expect that we will do certain things, in a certain way, within certain guidelines. The problem comes back to the old saying, “Expectations kill relationships.”
- Are they based on what we see other people doing and achieving? It’s easy and dangerous to compare yourself to other women, coworkers, neighbors… etc. It’s important to realize that we all have varying strengths and sometimes we can get so caught up admiring someone else’s gifts that we loose sight of our own.
- Are they based on what we see on social media? Social media can be a wonderful source for growing a business, sharing your talents, communicating with family and friends, and so much more. But it’s important to realize that social media does not accurately depict real life… not even a little. At the very moment we feel a sense of jealousy or feelings of inadequacy, it’s time to unplug. Trying to live up to a staged picture we see on a computer screen is an utter waste of time.
- Are they based on the fear of being criticized? There are always going to be those people in life that criticize how everyone else parents their children, keeps their house, or spends their time. Are you doing, or not doing certain things in an effort to avoid such criticisms? Matt’s head coach used to tell his team (and probably still does) to “Ignore the noise!” regarding critics, and it’s some of the best second hand advice I’ve ever received.
- Are these expectations based on our own personal beliefs and values? Are you taking on tasks that you know are important to your own well-being or those you love? Do you make choices that align with your faith? Are you focusing on your gifts instead of someone else’s?
What would life look like if we decided to give the hand to the first four sources of expectations? How can we truly “stop the glorification of busy” and focus on what is important to us?
It took me a long time to admit this, but I hate being overly busy! That’s not to say I prefer not to have enough to do, I just know what I can handle. Thinking in a straight line has not always been my strong suit (just ask anyone who knows me). “Scatter brained” might be an adorable way to describe my inability to hold a thought for more than 30 seconds. Such a challenging personality trait is only complicated by an unreasonable workload, but after 37 years I can say that knowing this about myself has come as a huge relief.
My husband Matt is the poster boy for workaholics anonymous. The man thrives under pressure and flourishes when faced with seemingly impossible challenges. Some people are just designed this way. I wouldn’t call him a “dreamer” because Matt is the type of person who not just thinks up big crazy ideas, he sees them through 100% of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I love a dreamer… the world needs them. But when my husband gets an idea to say, become a farmer, dig a pond, start a new company, start timber framing using primitive tools, hunt something exotic in a part of the world no one else would be willing to go, by golly you better believe the wheels have already been set in motion. Sounds great right? Well…
Something’s Gotta Give
Whether you are the kind of person who deliberately tries to control the size of your workload or the kind that loves to see how big it can grow, no one can do it all. Despite our best efforts, something’s gotta give.
We all have to make decisions about what we are going to make a priority in our daily routines. I know that if I choose to treat myself to a workout in the morning, I’m going to fall behind on the laundry. If I take a day to catch up on housework, I’m either forgoing a shower or the opportunity to chip away at some unanswered emails. When I decided to get pregnant with our fourth child I gave up a lot. I was so incredibly exhausted and miserable that I couldn’t even cook my family a hot meal for nine solid months.
Even Matt who seems to be the king of managing expectations would admit that as hard and long as he worked, something would be falling by the wayside. Trying to please everyone while staying on task can be incredibly damaging to your health and your relationships with the people who matter most.
Cut Yourself Some Slack
Even after we begin to make conscience efforts to ignore unreasonable and unrealistic expectations in our life, there is still much to be done. It’s important to realize that we may not get to everything we want to in a day. If you didn’t get done what you planned, don’t beat yourself up.
Learn to Say “No”.
Saying “no” isn’t selfish. The truth is, people appreciate when you let them know that you can’t do something. More times than I can count I’ve agreed to things I knew I would have trouble managing and ended up having to let someone down. Disappointing someone because you were too proud to admit you couldn’t do something is never worth it.
Managing expectations can be really helpful for finding balance in our lives. I say (in the words of the undisputed world’s greatest coach of all-time) “Ignore the noise!”. Recognize the difference between what’s truly important to you and the noise of social media, the media, and other outside sources. Let go of trying to impress people who probably aren’t paying as much attention to you as you think. You’ll be happier as a result… and people will notice!
P.S. Sorry for the lack of photos in my last few posts. My house gets about 14 minutes of direct sunlight per day this time of year, and I can only take so many pictures of my barren yard.