Originally posted March 2015
Does everyone have pre-conceived ideas of how things or events will go before they happen? Maybe not everyone, but many of us do. It isn’t that we have thought out every possible detail and outcome; although some might, but that we have a sense or a flavor of how something will go or how we want it to go. Is it human nature? Is it a control issue? Is it all of the above? Probably. But, here’s the thing, when we have an image in our minds of how something will go, an expectation, and it doesn’t go that way, what happens? Byron Katie (www.thework.com) says that she is a lover of reality, “When you argue with reality you lose, but only 100% of the time”. I have been getting steady messages lately about my expectations and how much it costs me to fight against reality.
There have been major changes in my life in the last few weeks. I left my nearly 20 year career as an audiologist to put all of my energy into growing my coaching practice. I have been straddling my old and new careers for quite some time now. My last day in the office didn’t go as I’d hoped (read into that, didn’t go how I had expected). Driving into the office that morning I was excited, ready for the huge leap I was about to make and so looking forward to the relief I knew I was going to feel walking out the door at the end of the day. I remember imagining that my shoulders would feel lighter without all of the
weight I had been carrying around from that position for the last few years. I’m sure you can see where this is going, right? From the get go the day took a entirely different path than what I’d envisioned. It started with an email detailing a personnel issue that was a mistake. A mistake that could cost me a considerable amount of money. This was clearly not how I had seen the day going. In fact, it was so far out of my expectations, that I felt like I was going to blow a gasket from anger and frustration. I was not channeling my inner Byron Katie that day. I have heard an analogy of being a leaf in the stream to describe what Byron Katie sees as not arguing with reality. I like that image of a leaf floating along effortlessly in a stream, it feels peaceful. I was as entirely opposite to that image as can be, I was a leaf with arms and legs clinging to the rocks in the stream, climbing up on them, and jumping up and down in frustration all while shouting expletives. I was in a full blown, knock down, drag ’em out fight with reality. The personnel issue was not the only stressor that day, I had an expectation around how things would wrap up with my manager, it didn’t go like I’d imagined and likely there was also some fear about making such a big change that was also contributing to the derailment of my day.
If I had accepted the course of events that day, my own experience would have been much better. That is not to say, that I shouldn’t have stood up for myself and detailed the accounting error. I am not suggesting that anyone become a doormat. Instead, I could have looked at the actual events of the day and noticed that what was happening in my head was much bigger than what a person who wasn’t emotionally invested would’ve seen. The fact was there was an accounting error, my employer had records of the resolution somewhere they just had to be located. In the end the error was resolved, no thanks to my anger or worry. As for the situation with my boss, I had given several weeks notice because I wanted, hoped for, and expected to be collaborative in creating a transition plan for my work to mitigate the impact on the families that I served in that position. The fact was that she chose my last day in the office to try and learn my role. I was so disheartened which further added to my anger and frustration. But, the reality-the fact-was that it was no longer my responsibility. I had tried my hardest and it was time to let go. If I had been able to be the leaf in the stream, my day and a few subsequent days would have been much better.
As I was writing this, I was reminded of a previous post called “Stewing in My Own Juices” that has a similar lesson at looking at facts vs our interpretation of a situation. Imagine my surprise when I looked back and realized that I’d written that post last month! I’ll say with some confidence that my awareness of these tendencies is coming in to focus. In that post I say:
This is a practice, going against years of conditioning. But, we can do it together. I’ll be practicing right along with you.
Clearly I am learning and practicing this right now, the universe is providing ample opportunities. In "Stewing In My Own Juices” I talk about perfectionism being the underlying catalyst to my experience in that situation. Expectations about how an event will go is part of my perfectionist tendencies. Wanting is good, it helps to guide us. But, attaching to the desired outcome and fighting reality can lead to unnecessary suffering. Trust me, I know. And, I’m guessing you do too.