Size Does Matter, Mine Are Bigger

by lizclark on October 13, 2014


The doors to the Emergency Room slid open and a haggard, elderly man staggered into the waiting area.

He passed several open chairs and sat down next to me without a word. He seemed confused.

I pretended to read an article about money market funds.

After about 3 seconds, it occurred to me that it was (clearly) my responsibility to politely let this perfect stranger know that he needed to check in if he wanted to be seen.

But, it was also none of my business.

Maybe he just needed a place to rest.

But, maybe he needed medical attention.

Finally, I said in my friendly voice, “Excuse me, sir. Do you need a doctor? You’ll need to check in at the desk.”

He glared at me with the bluest, angriest, loneliest eyes I think I’ve ever seen.

“Humph!” he humphed. “I’m 88 years old. I’ve fought in 2 wars. Sooner or later, they’ll come to me!”

I didn’t really know what to do with that.

So, I chatted with him for a while  - about war, America, family.

He finally let it slip that he was having chest pain. I convinced him to let me get some help and, in a matter of minutes, they were whisking him away.

I never saw him again. I pray he got what he needed.

He showed me something that day, though.

This man had something really important about himself that he wouldn’t tell anyone.

Further, he had unreasonable expectations (“They’ll come to me!”) about how this life-or-death information would be found out.

In my last post I talked about a few “blind spots” – behaviors that hold us back in life.

If those behaviors are blind spots, this behavior is a head-on collision: operating with big, hairy, unreasonable expectations.

We all do this from time to time.

For some of us, unreasonable expectations might only strike at holidays: envisioning our homes transformed into real-life Pinterest boards, with made-from-scratch delicacies and THE most thoughtful gifts — all on a budget of less than $100.

For the rest of us (i.e. me), we live in a perpetual state of unreasonable, unexpressed expectations.

These expectations are never met. As a result, we are constantly disappointed.

When it comes to expectations, size does matter: and my my unreasonable expectations used to be bigger and more unreasonable that anyone I had ever met.

The bigger my expectation, the bigger my disappointment: in others, in myself, in circumstances. Nothing was ever “good enough.” I couldn’t be happy for more than a day before I “got to work” fixing what I was just happy with.

It seemed hopeless.

But, for those of us who get trapped in this vicious cycle of high expectations and paralyzing disappointment, there is hope.

Sometimes just becoming aware of this pattern is enough of a catalyst to help change things. Here are a few tips on how to get out of this cycle – if you’re ready to change.

  1. Decide whether or not you actually want to change things. Because if you really don’t want to change, you won’t change.
  2. Get honest. Take a step back and become aware of when you’re creating or hanging onto ridiculous expectations. Get in touch with the actual size of your expectations.  Sometimes, we think our expectations are small, but they’re actually big, ugly, and unreasonable.  As long as you’re minimizing your problem, you will continue to have the problem. Acknowledge the truth!
  3. Communicate. Don’t let disappointment own you. Once you become aware of having ridiculous expectations, let your guard down and communicate them. Often the very act of saying them out loud to someone you trust will help you adjust your expectations.
  4. Laugh. A good sense of humor has saved my sanity on more than one occasion.  Don’t take unmet expectations personally. Here is a hard truth: You, like me, are a little ridiculous. Might as well enjoy it! Find the humor in the unreasonable expectations and laugh. Often. When people “let you down,” give them the benefit of the doubt and go back to Step 3: Communicate.
  5. Follow through. Once you start to see this pattern in yourself, have the courage to start changing it. Adjust your expectations to something more reasonable. The kitchen might not get clean in 15 minutes. The stubborn person at work might not change overnight. Stick with it and be reasonable.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Tammy Fuller October 14, 2014 at 12:30 AM

This is fantastic and very timely. There are some specific people I’m going to have to share this with!


lizclark October 14, 2014 at 8:31 AM

Thank you, Tammy! I am glad it connected with you! It was a hard one for me to write because I still struggle with it myself. Thanks again!


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