Updated: Mar 1, 2020
Like me, you may be struggling to get all your shopping done for the holidays. While I can only help a little with that (see this post), I've got just the thing for everyone on your list this year. In fact, you know those gifts you give your significant other that you secretly want to enjoy yourself? (I'm looking at you, Xbox.) This is a gift that you give, but you also receive just as much benefit! And the best part is, you don't have to go to a store to get it.
It's the gift of low expectations.
I don't mean low expectations in the spirit of not pushing yourself or others to higher achievement. Instead, I'm talking about the expectations we place on others (particularly those closest to us) to give us a sense of fulfillment, belonging, importance. Of happiness.
Now hold on, Laura. Isn't it my partner's (SO's, best friend's) role to bring me happiness? Well...no. I'm not saying that they're absolved of contributing to the relationship. But what I am saying is that you'll be happier if you change your expectations of their contributions.
Life is hard. Adulting is harder. Each one of us faces each day with an impossible to-do list. Busy jobs that, enabled by technology, demand our attention 24/7. Maybe kids who require responsible raising. Family obligations. Bills to pay. Errands to run. Driveways to shovel. Meals to cook. It's mentally and physically exhausting. So when, on top of all of that, we're expected to be the central fulfilling force for those closest to us, it's enough to provoke a meltdown.
Why do we place this expectation on those we love, and then get mad when they inevitably fail?
Instead of putting all these expectations on our loved ones, what if we were to excuse them from the burden of making us feel important, wanted, completed, loved? Because, truly, it's an impossible expectation.
Your happiness can only come from one person: You. If you can't figure out how to be happy yourself, how can you possibly expect someone else to do it for you? You control how you interpret everything that is said and done by another. And the other thing you control is how you show up for those important people in your life. (We'll talk more about your role in your own happiness at another time, because it deserves its own focus.)
So this Christmas, instead of continuing the cycle of expecting your loved ones to bring you happiness and fulfillment, try this instead:
Let your only expectation be to allow you to love them. Practice loving unconditionally. Don't do things with the expectation of any kind of reaction. Don't look for anything from this person except being there for you to love.
Focus daily of the things that make them lovable. Brainstorm if necessary. There are things to love about this person. There are likely plenty of unlovable things about them too! But isn't it more pleasant to focus on the really lovable things? Do this daily, and you'll find that's how you see this person.
Show up daily as the partner you want to be. If you start to focus more on how you can positively contribute to the relationship, rather than the other way around, you'll see a dramatic shift in that relationship.
If you practice this daily, you'll soon find that your cup is overflowing with joy, and you'll likely even notice a positive shift in your partner's behavior. And that's why it's the gift that suits everyone, not just during the holidays but every day of every year.