It's so hard isn't it? Often at New Year we make resolutions about improving and start off with bags of enthusiasm, but all too often our enthusiasm tails off, our plans slip and before we know it we are berating ourselves for failing. Sound familiar? So why is it that we do this every year and never seem to learn that there is a fundamental flaw with the global plan of starting afresh in January to be the person we want to be with positive outlooks and healthy habits?
In NLP there is a very well known belief : "If you always do what you've always done, You'll always get what you always got." Simply put if we keep trying the same thing in the same way we are always going to fail. So the take-out from this simple phrase is that if you want something to work you need to change your approach. Ask yourself - what can I do differently? Maybe if we alter how we are approaching change we will be able to make it more sustainable. 2020 was a very different year. There have been many social media posts about not having to make resolutions for 2021 and approaching the year with much more caution, though with some guarded optimism as surely things can only get better?
In some ways, our hopes and expectations for 2020 a year ago were a bit like our hopes and dreams about welcoming a baby into our lives. We planned and knew how we wanted it to go, but then somehow the reality was so far removed from our expectations that we were all cut adrift and had to rapidly adapt to a "new normal". The difference was that we all accepted that our expectations for the year had been flawed because we hadn't anticipated the global pandemic. We didn't keep comparing our expectations to our reality and criticise or admonish ourselves for not meeting our expectations. We didn't believe we personally had failed because we couldn't live up to the expectations. We accepted (perhaps very reluctantly) that our reality was the way it was. We amended our expectations in line with our "new normal" and started to appreciate the differences and look for the positives.
I think it is fair to say that when we are planning a baby and journeying through pregnancy we have many expectations of how life is going to be. We have preconceived ideas about how we will manage being new parents and how we are going to parent. We may have heard from other people who have had babies,but it does not alter our own perceptions. We might even think "well that may have been the case for you but it will be different for me..." So when our baby arrives and our reality does not live up to our expectations, what do we do? We often feel like we are failing.
Maybe we think there is something wrong with us because we don't instantly fall in love with our babies.
Perhaps our baby doesn't sleep for more than 45 mins at a time during the night and we think we are doing something wrong.
Maybe (if you chose to breastfeed) breastfeeding isn't what you expected it to be and so you blame yourself for any difficulties or feel like a failure if you latterly decided to / were told to / had to bottle feed?
The point is, it often doesn't occur to us that it was our expectations that were flawed. We cling to our parenting dreams and ideals and make many comparisons and automatically assume that we are failures when our reality falls short.
So - what if we did something differently? What if we reflected back on our expectations and saw them for what they were? The aspirations and dreams of people who had absolutely no idea about the reality of a baby coming into their lives and how they would manage that change. It is time to cut yourself some slack and make some adjustments to your assessment of the situation. If we fail to adjust or manage our expectations then we are likely to be disappointed. What is the worst customer service? Being over-promised and under-delivered. If someone manages our expectations and tells us something may take 4 days but actually only takes 2 then we are delighted. If someone promises 1 day but it takes 2 we are outraged. The only difference is our expectations.
When our expectations are based on incomplete information, reality is likely to fall short. Adjust your expectations and sometimes your reality may exceed what you thought possible.
Expectation: I'll do housework and cook dinner when the baby sleeps
Reality: I had a hot drink
Outcome: I think I'm a failure
Expectation: I'll make a drink when the baby sleeps (though it will probably be cold when I drink it)
Reality: I had a hot drink
Outcome: I think how wonderful it was to actually get a hot cup of tea!
Maybe this New Year can be a new start. A start to being more compassionate to yourself and finding little things that have gone well amidst things that perhaps haven't gone to plan. Taking our skills and beliefs from how we adjusted to an unexpected year and applying them to other areas of our lives.
So maybe our New Year's resolutions should be about acceptance of where we are, our reality. I suspect you have read before that you need to accept where you are in order to move forward, and I have struggled with this until I actually got what this means. Acceptance of your reality doesn't mean that we accept it forever; it means we accept that this is the starting point. If we don't accept our starting point, how can we ever make plans for how we are going to move forward? Or have realistic expectations of our outcomes? Only by knowing and accepting our reality exactly as it is without denial or beliefs of failure can we have realistic expectations of ourselves. Adjust your expectations and let them be dynamic. Let reality influence and inform them rather than clinging to them and celebrate your humanity and little wins.