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How shifting your expectations can lead to meaningful moments this holiday season.

As we round the corner to Christmas, the most celebrated holiday in the US with 90% of Americans decking the halls in some form or another, my mind goes to where it often does – meaning, purpose, and value. Whether we want it to be or not, Christmas is a commercial holiday full of expectations around social gatherings and gift buying and giving. At the end of the holidays, when we’re surrounded by consumer items and full of rich foods and libations, will we also be full of the memories of meaningful connection? Will we see that we were able to meet fully with the ones we love, no distractions, wholly present? Will we be filled up, or will we find ourselves strung out?

I’ve found that one of the biggest detractors of happiness in life lies around unmet expectations made consciously or, more often than not, unconsciously. These expectations can be placed upon ourselves or others in our lives. It becomes a daily practice to uncover these expectations (ideally with curiosity and gentleness, as this is ninja soul work).

Ask yourself: what expectations am I holding this holiday season? You may find that you are putting undue pressure on yourself to get the perfect gift for everyone on your list, or that you are saying yes to more party invitations than you actually have the time or energy for.

You may also be putting expectations on those you love. Do you have a secret list of things you expect your partner to do in order “meet the mark” this holiday season? Perhaps you are subconsciously expecting that they get you a certain caliber of gift, attend all the gatherings with you, or decorate the house just-so.  The expectations may be unfair to your partner, and they are likely also setting you up for disappointment.

If you have an expectation in your mind – either of yourself or another – you open the door to disappointment when that expectation is not met, and possibly even resentment. The good news is that you can begin a practice of mindful exploration now that will help set you up for a more balanced life.

As with many of our life’s work, the key to overcoming the pitfalls of expectations begins with ourselves. As Carl Jung said, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore unpopular.” If we have not shed light on our conscious and unconscious setting of expectations, it may seem disagreeable to begin now. But the reward (true happiness) will be worth the discomfort.

If you find yourself feeling sad, angry, or overwhelmed this holiday seasons, ask yourself what unmet expectations may lie behind that emotion. Once you’ve identified the root, forgive yourself, forgive the ones you love, and drop back into the present. Take notice of your blessings, and replace that sadness and anger and compassion and forgiveness. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your hardness melts away.

Wishing you all many blessings and lots of joy this season and into the New Year.

Liz Smith

Concierge + Master of Celebrations, Pursuit Concierge

Liz is New England native now living in Seattle. She is a unique mix of MBA, folk herbalist, and self-care advocate. As concierge and Master of Celebrations at Pursuit, she is able to combine her business know-how with one of her greatest joys in life – helping others.