New Year, new you, new resolutions, new habits, new, new, new, new….arrrrgggghhhhhh. Perhaps like me you’ve seen, heard and felt the many expectations on this month’s start – you’ve got to be new, do new, think new, be new…..and well, maybe that’s true for you or maybe it feels like a set of expectations that burden or pressure you to change, invest and behave differently.

So, this month I’m not going to add to the voices, influencers, gurus, etc who are talking about setting out your 2021 intentions and resolutions. I’m going to talk about expectations.

INSIGHT

We carry loads of expectations every day – from lifestyle norms like brushing our teeth twice a day to seasonal ones like new year’s resolutions. Some we create ourselves and others are external to our values, needs and desires.

At school and work, we’ve been taught to do well that we need an expectation – a grade or KPI to achieve. At home and in our relationships, we’ve been taught what is expected of us as societal and cultural norms. If like me, you watch Bridgerton over the festive break, not only our status, role and marital expectations were firmly set out. 

Today, we have more flexibility within those expectations, yet we’ve not achieved acceptance or equality – the UN Women have shared their research on 2020’s impact on women’s careers, health, safety and wealth; not one has improved in the last 12 months.

Expectations are not all bad. When explicit, specific and aligned, we know where we stand. We have clarity and focus. We can take action and invest our time and energy effectively. They can shape our dreams and future vision, as well as forming our leadership style and impact.

They become problematic when they are unrealistic or misaligned with our own expectations or circumstances. They create “shoulds” and “musts”, which can devastate our motivations and self-confidence. They open up opportunities for our disempowering archetypes, Super Woman, Bitch, Martyr and Victim with their associated exhaustion, emotional fatigue and the risk of burnout.

It is this type of expectation that can reinforce our sense of not being or doing enough, as well as causing us to wobble and doubt ourselves, struggle to lead others with authenticity and compassion, and creating feelings of guilt, frustration and anxiety as we play compare-itus and second guess or procrastinate.

Ask yourself: are you setting new year resolutions (ie expectations) of yourself that are realistic and aligned with your values, needs, desires and your circumstances? Or are you doing it because it is expected because of a random date in the calendar and creating a “should” or “must” in your life and leadership?

Woman writing in journal

This month, courage is needed in our expectations of self and of others. Often, these can be intertwined. For example, if I engage everyone in this zoom meeting today, my team will be reinvigorated to move ahead. The expectation that you will perform in a certain way and that your team will respond as you’d wish (because we control that, right?). 

How do we then critique ourselves? Does that little voice whisper in our ear “…., but you won’t, will you? Who do you think you are? You’ve got no chance, have you seen yourself on screen?” Hello Impostor Syndrome, Hello Bitch. 

It takes courage to shape our expectations and to detangle them from our expectations of others in order to be compassionate and lead our teams, our families and our communities. 

If you are setting 2021 resolutions set-up expectations on yourself or on others, be courageous in them: acknowledge the silent “should” or “must” in them, make your associated expectations on others transparent to yourself and possible to them, and to communicate our values, needs and requests for support.

COURAGE

LIBERTY

As I mentioned above, 2020 removed many choices for women with its many impacts on our work, careers, families and wellbeing to name but a few.

We head into 2021 with continued uncertainty around our tier system, schools and workplace openings – or not! – and the expectations we feel, whether realistic, self-generated or from others.

We still have the liberty to park expectations that are unrealistic and to frame others in positive, affirming ways. You might recall the cycle of creation from the Haven Retreat (missed it? Hop over here and visit unit 2). Those same principles can be applied to our expectations – build the meaning to support the emotional mood and active motion you require to achieve your desired outcomes.

Write down your expectation, with your little voice’s “additions” then rewrite the meaning (check where it comes from mind, body or Source) that supports you to feel and act in ways to meet your own expectations with compassion and without sacrifice.

Taking the zoom meeting example above, a potential meaning might be “I can share and spread my enthusiasm for this project with ease” – such a meaning is uplifting, aligned and establishes a sense of self-confidence, which in turn can shape your expression, time and energy on zoom in the meeting.

I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.

Brené Brown

One of my favourite authors and sources of wisdom. I love this quote, it summarises my own value of connection both personally and within my work, especially the Haven group, my coaching, retreats and workshops.

Looking at it through the lens of “expectation”, it is can be seen how they can positively and negatively change our levels of connection with others.

A compassionately set and openly, perhaps even vulnerable shared expectation can build a bond, strengthen a feeling of support, sustenance and strength within a personal or professional relationship.

An unspoken, misaligned or unrealistic expectation can work to create frustration, guilt, shame or exclusion – creating the emotional mood and subsequent motion to hinder the expectation’s achievement whether that be by a boundary, trust being crossed, demotivation or diverting away.

Thinking back on your new year expectations, if you’re setting some, how will you create a connection around them that is free of judgement (of yourself, of and from others), that supports you in achieving them and that enables you to leverage the energy of connections.

CONNECTION

JOY

Each new year starts with an expectation that in some ways it will be better, brighter and safer than the previous year, but what if 2021 turns out to be another “plot twist” filled year, like 2020?

Joy can also be heightened or destroyed by expectations – of ourselves, our capacities, our motivation or our belonging. When circumstances change in the moment, we can fail to see the small joys or flex our plans to enable joys still to be found.

Considering the growing concerns around COVID, its potential impacts on our day to day and our longer term expectations, I’m opting to plot out small joys in each day for myself and where I can to spread some joy to others, rather than focus and put my energy into plans for visiting farther afield friends and family, a holiday, a new course and so on. 

How will you adapt your expectations to create and share joy as we step into January? 

Woman journalling

And that’s this month’s shares.

I want to end with a personal share – a poem a friend sent me as part of their New Year message, which I enjoyed and thought you might too as we embark on 2021. For me, it speaks to the One of many women’s powertypes and principles, to my journalling practices and belief that replenishing first through joy, compassion and connection will see me through 2021, come what may.

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labours and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann