What did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a flight attendant, a truck driver, a veterinarian and a teacher. None of those things ever came to fruition, but I have never stopped wondering what I could be if I ever grew up.
Sometimes I imagine selling everything to move out to the country and live on a farm. I’d want to have cows and chickens and grow organic food and sell it to people who eat things like wheat grass and chia seeds. I’d have a pasture and a horse, and a big enough yard that Sabbie could run for Frisbees without ripping up our small suburban lawn. The nearest house would be a half mile away, and I’d call them neighbors.
When I told Bubba about this he called me a hippie.
Me: I suppose I would have to stop shaving my legs.
Bubba: I reckon.
Me: Do you think I could keep shaving my pits, or would I have to let that go too?
Bubba: I think that goes along with the gig.
There is always something to discourage me from my big ideas. You can call me a pessimist. I say I’m a realist. A realist with smoothly shaven legs and pits.
I like to think of myself as a realist. My glass may be half full or half empty. I’ll let you know after I find out what’s in there. Wine? Dang, that glass is half empty. Fill ‘er up, eh?
As a realist, there are things I understand. Not everyone is going to like me. Nothing is perfect — not a job, not a friendship, not a house, not a spouse. Nothing lasts forever — not possessions, not happiness, not life, and certainly not cake.
For these reasons and more, realists sometimes are mistaken for pessimists. But as a realist, I also understand that everywhere I go, most people are going to like me. And my job, friendships, house, and Bubba are really awesome. In addition, most things will last just long enough to get what you need out of them, including grief, strife, childhood, and life. Even cake.
Another misconception is that people with low expectations harbor low standards. While I know what superb results look like, I know there are times I just won’t achieve them. To avoid stress, it is in my best interest to be realistic.
Perfection is where high standards meet high expectations and can lead to procrastination and eventually paralysis. The dreaded 3 P’s. Look it up.
Take my last month at work and, for all I know, the next month or more. We had a software conversion. They tell me I am a super-user, which means all questions and issues from my department funnel through me. I work in a customer service position. Our software conversion is causing issues not only for internal users, but the people we serve. There are inaccuracies, misunderstandings, and unmet expectations. There’s that word again.
My email and voicemail inboxes are brimming with unanswered messages. I am not meeting my high standards of customer service. I am afraid I won’t help my co-workers feel comfortable in the new system. I have lost management of my time. My long hours are shrinking my personal time; my real life.
And on one particular day I crashed. I threw a hissy fit right a my desk. Papers were thrown. Tears were spilt. Someone in the neighboring office may have freaked out. Just a little.
The biggest problem was the level at which I had placed my expectations. I expected June to feel normal. I expected a manageable routine by now. I expected sleep to come 7 hours at a time. After five weeks in the new system, I expected to meet my high standards. When they weren’t, I imploded. Or exploded as the case may have been.
It is time for a game plan. And while I don’t completely have that plan figured out, chances are it is going to include lowering my expectations.
The difference between expectations and standards is that you can lower your expectations without sacrificing your self-esteem. I don’t think we can say the same of our standards. While our circumstances are often out of our control, both of these attributes are not; we can set them deliberately.
I have set my standards sky-high. Due to circumstances out of my control, I just can’t meet them . . .