(Only an Aussie could title our first guest post for Woot! Woot! Wednesday ~ “Don’t expect the dog to set the table!” Please give a warm welcome and a heaps of shares to my dear friend Don Adlam. Don has shared his wisdom with us before in his popular post Free advice from a marriage counselor. This wonderful man is back to delight and inspire us with his life insights and Australian humor.
Let’s see what Don has in store for us today…)
Just imagine you were getting ready for a dinner party and then realized you hadn’t set the table. There’s no one home with you but your trusty dog. So you get the cutlery and the table linen, take them into the dining room, and ask the dog to set the table. Now, how do you reckon that will go?
The result might be something like this—the dining room awash in slobber and chaos, you upset and probably yelling at your dog, sending poor old Fido out with his tail between his legs. The table will still need to be set, AND now there’s a mess to be cleaned up. Not a great result!
Let’s face it, lacking opposable thumbs and a seating diagram, poor ol’ Fido was up against it from the start. What were you thinking?!
Now of course, you wouldn’t expect Fido to set the table. And yet, so often we expect the impossible of others. Even though we see the evidence right there in front of us, we expect others—and sometimes even ourselves—to be different than we know we are.
If someone has done the same thing, in the same way, in the same situation a thousand times, how clever is the, maybe-this-time, play? When do we stop expecting a surprise appearance from their “better self”, which has always gone AWOL when it comes to this issue, in this situation?
And so if Mom is a bit like that, and we’ve spoken about it a thousand times, and she’s actually tried and nothing’s changed, how clever is it to expect her to be any different this time? Simply, honestly, state your disappointment or suck it up…OR disengage. Mom’s mom.
With kids especially; they are kids, not advanced beings. They are innocent, naive, incompetent little beings in many ways. Just like Fido, there’s heaps of stuff they actually can’t and shouldn’t be expected to do.
Let’s not expect a toddler to understand the value of the Ming vase left within reach of a hand whose nature is to explore. Let’s not expect our partners to just “get it”. It can be the same with work associates, service suppliers, politicians, and on and on. Opportunity for frustration and righteousness abounds, and with it, a subtle opportunity for growth.
When we stop putting our expectation onto those who can’t satisfy it, we save emotional energy—better kept for celebrating our and others’ gains. We gain independence and become stronger for those around us. We also become more accepting and supportive of others in their development.
We waste less time and energy tidying up errors made by those we unfairly expected to be able to fulfill our unrealistic expectations.
Learning to disengage from the unrealistic expectations we place on others (and ourselves) can liberate us from needless stress and develop our compassion…for Fido, for Mom, for the kids, for ourselves.
Can I get a Woot! Woot! for accepting people just as they are?
(Don has been around for 60 years, 20 of those have been spent serving others. He works with individuals, couples, families and groups as a “life-nutritionist”. Don’s dined on a broad feast of life’s offerings; digesting those experiences which have nourished, and putting aside those which have not. Much of his work has been done with his beloved wife Melinda, and hence he specializes in relationship issues, but also assists clients in overcoming abuse, dependencies, and expanding emotional awareness. They enjoy their life in Adelaide with the koalas, possums, and Rupert the cat.)
Enjoy life, chill out…
just for the health of it!