We’ve only got one shot at this thing called life. And yet, all too many of us tend to give it away to living other people’s expectations.
All too often, young people spend the first two decades of their lives absorbing their world’s expectations for them – figuring out what their parents and communities think they should be doing. They internalize those dreams, those visions, those goals. And then, they spend the next several decades trying to fulfill others’ expectations of what their lives should be like.
And then, sometime on the approach to middle age, they become surprised that they have not yet begun to live their own, authentic life. That they’ve done what was expected of them, but feel lost, unclear if it was ever anything they actually wanted.
This inevitable conflict, that leads to wondrous personal development growth on the one hand, and those hallmarks of a mid-life crisis – failed relationships and red sports cars – on the other, can be avoided if we teach our children and ourselves one critical life skill: to set their own expectations for themselves.
The thing is, we think we are living our own expectations, because we’ve internalized others’ expectations as our own. A particular path in school or work, marriage with 2.3 children, living in a certain place — when we’re lucky, we find pure joy and fulfillment in the life set out for us. But all too often, our own expectations get peppered into our lives in bits and pieces, rarely forming a cohesive guide for living.
So how can you begin to live your own expectations, to create fulfilling lives of your own direction? It starts by recognizing that you are at choice!
It’s a delicious moment of revelation when you realize that your choices come more from your perspectives than anything else. In fact, your perspectives establish the options you see and explore. How you view any situation shapes the outcomes that are possible.
So my message is simple, really, the secret to a happy life: Set your own expectations for your life, based on your values and your priorities. Think about what matters to you, deeply, and without judgment of yourself or others. Allow your actions to reflect your lead values. Choose wisely. Allow yourself to see the world as you wish it to be, and allow your choices to create outcomes of joy and meaning.
Even in the midst of sadness, of trials and tribulations, there is joy to be found in the simplest appreciations of life’s wonder, and pure gratitude for the gifts and privileges that grace our worlds. To be free, to be at choice … to live the life you want, in accordance with your values and in concert with your own vision … THAT is truly inspirational.
You’ve got one life – make it count. The choice is yours.
Struggling with these ideas? Visit Inspire Me Today for more articles on managing your expectations.
Elaine Taylor-Klaus is a life-long socio-preneur and public advocate, a change-agent, writer, parenting coach and public speaker. She is most proud of her work co-founding and building ImpactADHD.com, a global resource to help parents of children with ADHD learn to take a whole new approach to managing complex children. A leading international expert on ADHD and parenting, Elaine serves on the national Board of Directors of CHADD, and is the mother in an ADHD Family of 5. If you need help managing the upcoming school year, check out Elaine’s Parent Success System.