New Year, New Expectations

First and foremost, welcome back!  I hope that each of you was able to enjoy the holidays and find solace and comfort over the past several weeks.  More so, I hope that the New Year has you prepared for the obstacles, challenges and great experiences that the year is yet to bring.

As we find ourselves a week and a half into 2016, I’m confident that many of you (myself included) have some amount of hope and a level of expectation for what you would like to accomplish in the next twelve months.  For some, we may be starting at ground zero and embarking on a journey towards that bucket list item.  And others, we are continuing with the momentum that we built in 2015 and pressing forward into 2016 with the intent of getting to ‘the next level’.

In either situation, starting from scratch or building from an existing foundation, many of us have made 2016 the year that we build into ourselves and grow as an individual while working towards a goal.  Personally, in the recent weeks, I have come to the understanding that as we begin this journey, it’s incredibly important to understand what an expectation is and to reframe the expectation given our current ability to do (or not do) something.

Ending the Year in Style

Before breaking from weekly posts last December, I had written about several different events that I had on the calendar to close out the year.  Although I was still able to complete each planned event, one of them resulted in a rather serious injury that required an ambulance ride, trip to the hospital, and last minute surgery.

The second weekend in December I had planned skiing trip with a friend in Park City, UT.  On the last run of the day (last time down the mountain), there was an unavoidable situation that resulted in a collision with another person.  In the hour that followed, I had to be carted off the mountain and taken by ambulance to the local hospital.

As I was sitting on the mountain (after the collision), I knew the injury was serious, but I was unsure as to the full extent.  It wasn’t until I arrived at the hospital and I saw a picture of the wound that I knew I wouldn’t been on my feet for a while.  After several tests, x-rays, and plenty of IV’s and shots, it was decided that I needed to go into surgery that evening.

Once the surgery was complete (and myself a bit more coherent), the doctor told me that he had to re-sterilize my knee capsule, repair my torn lateral collateral ligament (LCL) and lateral meniscus, and close up the 6-7 inch laceration in my leg.  I’ll savor the pictures so as not to upset the stomach!

After hearing the doctor’s words, I wasn’t upset with the surgery or angry with the pain.  More than anything, I was most hurt when the doctor looked at me and said, “You will be on crutches for 6 weeks without bearing weight, and to some extent you will probably spend a total of 3 months on crutches.”

It was at this moment that my heart sank, and I realized that I would have to rethink and re-plan everything I had already committed to in 2016 – I would have to reframe any and all expectations.

reality-expectation-gap (1)Reframing Expectations

It is not uncommon for me to commit to something well in advance.  In doing so, it commits me to something, and forces me to be prepared for whatever the event is.  It doesn’t matter whether the commitment requires months of preparation, or even a few hours.  Once I’ve committed, I’m all in and will prepare to the best of my ability.

For example, in February 2015 my wife and I committed to running three marathons throughout the year.  We had an idea of what it would take to complete all three, and we knew that it would be an 11 month adventure.  So, in keeping up with the same mindset of committing early, there are several things we committed to in 2016 (prior to knee surgery).  There are plans to re-qualify for the Boston Marathon, an Ironman to complete in August, and a number of other mountains to champion and trails to leave in the dust.

I speak of these plans for 2016 in the present tense because they can still be completed, but perhaps in a different month, another city, or with the understanding of knowing that I won’t be at my best.  Maybe I won’t re-qualify for Boston in May, but it’s possible in September or October.  Perhaps I won’t be able to focus as much on running and biking for the Ironman, but there’s a good chance I am going to be forced to swim a lot more.  Maybe transferring to the Louisville, KY Ironman in October will give me an additional two months of training and recovery. It could be that I hike ten different 8,000 foot mountains instead of three or four 14,000 foot peaks.

And so the same pattern occurs in our daily lives.  In the busyness of the day, amidst the hectic schedules and demands of work and family, it’s possible that we find ourselves seeming to constantly adjust schedules and shuffle things around.  There is nothing wrong with doing so, and I am poised to say that life isn’t going to slow down anytime soon.

However, something I have recognized in my own life and in others’ lives, is that when our schedules don’t go as planned, that we can easily become agitated, frustrated, and even a bit pissed off because ‘it’s just not how it’s supposed to happen’.  The result of these moments is that we fail to be present in that moment, and we miss out on having any experience at all.  We become so caught up in ‘what could have been’ instead of ‘what is’.

It’s when we focus on the ‘what is’ that we begin to reframe our expectations.  When we are able to do this, then our success rate of achieving our goals is likely going to be higher because we understand that there is no such thing as not meeting the expectation that we previously set out for ourselves.  Instead, we understand that the expectation is still possible, but likely not in the manner that we originally anticipated.

Advice for the New Year

In light of rethinking how we frame our expectations, I’d like to challenge all of my readers (myself included) to think once more about the goals we would like to accomplish in 2016.  Set them in stone, but a malleable stone that is able to withstand harsh conditions and also has the ability to rest and know when to take advantage of the sunshine.

Be less rigid and more flexible.

Focus on the ‘I can’s’ in lieu of the ‘I can not’s.

And remember, the bar to meeting our expectations is adjustable, and it’s within our own power to raise and lower when needed.

Cheers to happy, healthy, and fulfilling 2016!

12 Comments on “Reframing Expectations

  1. Your experience reminds me of the pains i have faced and the importance of resilience, humility and introspection. İnteresting how some of these challenges can eventually turn into opportunities if only we be open. As you wrote we need to remember to stay in the present. İ wish you a speedy recovery. Thank you for sharing.

    • Hi Paul-

      You raise a great point when you mention resilience. This is the true test of whether an individual is able to overcome adversity and see opportunity in every situation!

  2. I enjoyed reading your post, JJ! Good luck with your recovery. Setbacks can be so frustrating, but sometimes it’s what you need to appreciate being able to run pain free, and can even push you to try harder when you are able to run 🙂

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