Rising Strong: managing expectations

What are your expectations…

…about work? What is and isn’t your job? When is your job “done” for the day? How do colleagues work together?

…about relationships? How do you communicate? How do you argue? Where do you compromise?

…about finances? What’s your budget? How do you mesh your spending/tracking style with a significant other, aging parent, or child?

…about ways you spend your time? What time is yours? What blocks of your schedule belong to someone else?

…about the direction of communities you’re part of? What’s the vision? How do you participate in shaping and carrying it out?

We all carry around expectations, whether we put words to them or not. And as Brené Brown points out, there’s a strong correlation between expectations and disappointment: “Disappointment is unmet expectations, and the more significant the expectations, the more significant the disappointment.” (Rising Strong, p. 139).

We’ve all been steamrolled by disappointment. The afternoon we set aside to binge-watch Netflix gets taken over by a lengthy honey-do list. The job we thought we wanted turns out to be a terrible fit. The Normal Rockwellian Thanksgiving dinner we imagined becomes a hot mess of overcooked turkey and battles between relatives with different political ideologies. The church we love loses steam, and the church friends we love slowly drift away to other congregations or to no congregation at all.

There’s no way to avoid all disappointment, but Brown prescribes a couple of steps to take away its power:

  • Creative Commons "Expectations - Roland in Vancouver459.jpg" by Roland Tanglao is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
    Creative Commons “Expectations – Roland in Vancouver459.jpg” by Roland Tanglao is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

    Put all your expectations on the table. Don’t expect your husband, your kid, or your supervisee to read your mind. That’s a recipe for sunken-heart syndrome and broken relationships. It’s also helpful to raise our expectations to consciousness so we’re not caught off guard by our own strong reactions to tough situations.

  • Acknowledge which expectations are based on factors beyond your control. You might still have the expectation, but it might be easier to deal with the frustration if you realize you couldn’t have changed the outcome.

These are good exercises for congregations because we carry so many expectations about our community of faith. How do my expectations line up with my fellow church members’? And, more importantly, how do our human hopes fit in with God’s hopes for us?

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