It happens every year. We look forward to the holiday lights, the office party, impromptu get togethers with friends and family, and most of us look forward to giving and getting Christmas gifts. So why is this most joyful time of the year so stressful? Why are we so good at sucking all the goodness, peace, and good cheer into shopping madness, stress, and quick tempers.
The answer is obvious…or should be. It’s the disappointment of failed expectations.
Setting expectations for ourselves is meant to be energizing, motivating, and a guiding light toward a purposeful life. When done right, setting expectations for ourselves can make us better people, improve our relationships, and make us more value employees. When done wrong, as we tend to do with these short term “to-do” lists for the holidays, we fail and stress out. Why?
Setting expectations for the long term can help us change from being self-centered infants to meeting the needs of ourselves and those around us in the framework of a wide perspective.
However, at this time of year we’re setting expectations for about a month’s worth of days that lay between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We have little time, so we over-program ourselves. Our to-do lists automatically set up bloated expectations for ourselves and for those around us, with the results being a tendency toward being cranky, tired, and ungrateful.
Take for example, gift shopping! Since so many of us shop online, we don’t even get to enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of Christmas malls and the ringing of Salvation Army bells. Instead, we hear only the click-clack of the keyboard as we learn that the gift we’ve located for our grandson has “only 1 more left” so we buy it anyway knowing full-well we’re being lied to in order to get us to “add to cart” before we second guess our decision, which we will anyway when the shipping we expected to be free is more than the money saved choosing gifts on sale.
After we blow our budget, max out our credit cards, give in to whining demands of spouses, employees, store clerks, and Amazon’s shopping cart, we feel like a failure yet still accept every invitation to every holiday party so we can talk with much animation to people we barely know while we snack raw carrots and molasses cookies.
The double-edged sword comes when we not only continue to have failed expectations of ourselves, but also become disappointed in others. But we can stop the madness! This Christmas, let’s agree to appreciate ourselves more, be more patient with ourselves, and accept our shortcomings. It may well be our greatest gift to those around us.
Merry Christmas from the DL MoneyMatters Team