Sunday, April 3, 2011

Exercise #12: Adjusting Expectations

Take an honest inventory of your life situation. Are you holding on to unproductive behaviors with the unrealistic expectation that they won't really hurt you?  Is is time to reach for a "new normal," maybe even on a higher level? 
I'm not really sure where this post is going to end up, but here goes with some rambling thoughts I have about this topic...

Our author uses a story from Candid Camera to illustrate her point, and I decided to share part of it here because it really did help me work toward what I need to change in my life.  She tells how they put an actor in a car from which the engine has been removed, position it at the top of a hill, and coast it into a service station.  The attendant fills the car with gas, then when the actress asks sweetly if he'll check the oil, he opens the hood to find that there is no engine!  Despite his protests, she pretends to have no idea what he's talking about, insisting that he fix it. 

We laugh our heads off whenever we watch this clip. But one of the things that makes it funny--and even a little painful--is that it is so true to the way we live our lives. How often do we insist that someone make the car run, even when we know in our hearts that the car has no engine? 

That behavior takes many forms.  We take an energetic two-year-old to the movies and insist that she sit quietly for two hours, then get mad when she can't.  We spend all our money and then insist on buying more things even when we can't imagine how we'll pay for them.  We fill our bodies with junk food and deprive them of sleep, and then get upset when they don't run properly.  We're like Alma's son Corianton, who had to be told plainly, "Wickedness never was happiness," as much as he would have liked it to be otherwise (Alma 41:10). 

When our expectations are clearly unrealistic, we have two choices: live in denial and find ourselves unhappy at every turn, or adjust those expectations.
I have very unrealistic expectations for myself.  I have a hard time not thinking in absolutes, and so I often feel like if I am not doing everything perfectly, I am failing completely.  Which is completely untrue, and I should know better.  I've been taught all my life that while I must always try my best, only Christ is perfect.  Even Flylady taught me several years ago that "housework done incorrectly still blesses my family!"  I still sometimes find myself repeating that mantra as I ignore the dust bunnies in the corners and just sweep up the Cheerios everyone keeps crunching on as they walk through.  But it translates to so many areas of my life, and I need to remember that. 

Because I often feel like I can't do something perfectly I shouldn't do it at all.  And this is really destructive and selfish behavior, like the child that is too overwhelmed to clean his room and whines "It's too hard!"  I have been hiding from being the wife, friend, mother, and daughter of God that I know I need to work toward being.  Listening to General Conference this weekend really helped me understand that.  Whining that "It's too hard!" isn't going to cut it when it comes to my personal spiritual growth and teaching my children the gospel.  What is going to make the difference is consistent efforts at reading scriptures as a family, consistent personal prayer, and consistently finding ways to serve others.  Those are the things that I need to make my "new normal," not the destructive selfish attitudes I've held so close for so long.  It's easier said than done, but making goals is a start.  And if I can't do it perfectly, doing it at all will still bless my family and myself. 

And, appropriately, for next week: Making Lasting Changes

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