Every year, my husband’s company sends us to Disneyland for a weekend. We all look forward to this fun family time together. Last year, we had one day that felt truly magical. We’d gotten into the park as soon as it opened so the sun shone softly, the lines stayed short, and we happily rushed from one ride to another.
This year, things didn’t go as smoothly. I assumed we’d replicate last year’s experience, but things went straight downhill. It made me realize that most of us head into situations or projects with an idea of how it will turn out. This is normal. But my Disney experience helped me see that sometimes our expectations can weigh us down. I had wanted so desperately to recreate our previous experience that I nearly let it ruin my whole day. This experience helped me come up with some ways to tackle expectations.
Be realistic about your memories
Chances are, things weren’t as great as you remember. Once I started thinking back on that magical Disney day, I remembered that as the morning wore on the heat shot off the charts, the kids started fussing about sore feet, and we pretty much wanted to eat each other’s faces. We all tend to gloss over the past, and it’s good to remember this when you’re setting up expectations.
Find bright spots in the moment
Look on the bright side is cliché for a reason: it’s excellent advice. Practice finding small things that are going well, versus focusing on all the things that are going wrong. If you emphasize the positive, you’ll enjoy yourself more and you’ll be modeling good behavior to your children, too.
Forgive others, the circumstances, and yourself
Part of what made our second Disney day so disappointing was my fault. I held onto my disappointment and was grumpy with my husband. He responded in kind, and soon the kids got crabby too. The negativity spilled into the rest of our time at Disneyland. I learned from this experience that if you spend your time resenting circumstances that are out of your control, you may ruin your own day—and everyone else’s, too.
Look at the big picture
Things that seem huge now could seem pretty insignificant in a year. On the flip side, you might view something as magical and wonderful after the passing of time. Already, many moments from our second Disney trip have become favorites for our family.
Whether it’s a special trip or just a day at home, I hope that you will be able to find your way to joy by releasing the weight of your expectations.