Ahhh, Spring… A new cycle for hope and new beginnings. If your New Year’s resolutions didn’t quite pan out, this is also the season for second chances.
But before we fall down the rabbit hole of expecting too much of ourselves and others, we should take a page from the tortoise, slowly moving towards the goal, with a bit more reflection than the audacious hare who arrogantly forgets the importance of the journey.
For the thirtysomeone, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of what I like to call, ‘Nextpectations’: expectations that make us feel negative emotions or that actually don’t serve us in our true happiness. Thirtysomeones are at the greatest risk since we are facing numerous decisions with multiple ways we can choose to attack them. We tend to look to everyone from our parents, our friends and even celebrities to help us sort through some of these often daunting dilemas. What did Beyoncé name her daughter again?
For a moment, think of some of the times that you say ‘should’ to yourself or you’ve heard it from someone else. If it was someone else, did you truly agree or did you feel some other negative emotion, like maybe guilt or shame? Did a parent or friend tell you that you should lose some weight? How did you feel when they said it? Is it something you’ve wanted to do for a while or is it kind of low on the priority list right now?
If finishing school or taking care of your children are your main priorities, ask yourself if you can put off losing weight or even ignore the suggestion altogether. Find power in what brings you joy first and don’t let background noise and guilt bring you down while you’re having fun pursuing your truest dreams.
I like to think of when people say I should move away from the city and start having children. It used to make me feel guilty that I hadn’t factored kids into my plan. But through some soul-searching, I confirmed with myself that my priorities are my husband and my work, and children just aren’t my jam. Once I was sure about what really brings me happiness, I was able to skirt any negativity those ‘shoulds’ could ever bring me.
The term, ‘Nexpectations’ also makes you think of how your goals for far off in the future can have you living in a constant state of ‘What’s Next?’ This happens when you achieve a goal that’s a small step to the bigger goal, but you hardly stop to celebrate it more than you would when your bus comes on time. Without even enjoying the fruits of your labour, you’re already looking ahead to what else you need to get done before you can be happy.
Let’s say, for example, your goal is to save money for a house.
First you work on the courage to ask for a raise.
You do it. You get it!
You think, “What’s Next?”
“Get a promotion.”
You get the promotion and you ask, “What’s Next?”
You do it. You think, “What’s Next?”
“Find a house. Then I’ll be happy…”
You find it. You buy it. “What’s Next?”
“Renovate. Then I’ll be happy…”
This constant living for the future causes us to lose perspective on the great moments right in front of us. Without celebration and reflection on our smaller achievements on the journey to the bigger goal, what’s the point?
It’s great to have a plan, but the idea is to not get carried away in only the planning, without being grateful for the achievements along the way. In other words, when someone congratulates you on that promotion, try to avoid saying, “Ya, but now I have to…”. Remember that, ‘Thank you’ goes a long way.
So this spring, let yourself have big hopes for the future but not without reflecting on all you’ve accomplished this far. And be sure to ask yourself if all the things you need to get done are from a positive place that is in touch with what makes you happy.
If you’re not sure what it is that will make you happy, you’ll have to do that first.
If you’re having trouble keeping a regular meditation schedule, remember that taking a contemplative walk in the the warm weather (or even in the rain) is also a form of meditation. Try to let your mind wander a little while also checking in with the things you’re looking forward to most in the upcoming years. Use everything you can to get the clarity you need for moving towards positive expectations you create for yourself and your life!
Happy Happy Spring, Thirtysomeones!