expectationsI just got back from 3 weeks in Scotland with my family. It was a fantastic trip. Watching Struan interact with his cousins, grandparents and aunts and uncles like he sees them every day was really magical. Oh, and the weather – WOW! Only 3 days of rain out of 21, and many days of glorious sunshine – Scotland, you out-did yourself.

Following the year that was in 2014, I was more than ready for the warmth of my family’s embrace. In the weeks leading up to my trip, I had many ideas and plans in my head of how the homecoming would play out. Most of them involved rivers of tears, declarations of familial love and commitment and me giving a family-wide speech on the meaning of life.

I was also a little nervous about having to re-live what had happened in the 9 months prior to my trip. I was doing my best to move on, and wondered, would talking about my cancer diagnosis again set me back.

It’s fair to say, I was building up the level of expectation on what I thought the outcome of my trip should be.

I spend a lot of time with clients helping them plan for their future success.  “Know what outcome you want” is one of my well-used phrases. And it’s true to say that, mostly, greatness comes from knowing what you actually want and putting in place a plan to get it.

But there is a danger in over-thinking and planning everything in your life, in that it has the potential to lead to unrealistic expectations. And therefore when those expectations aren’t met, you may feel disappointed in yourself, or others.

At the end of 3 weeks I left Scotland, without having said or done any of the major emotional things I planned to. My trip home had been really quite ordinary, and that’s exactly what made it so special.

Yes, there were hugs on arrival and departure, and two or three tears wiped roughly away, but mostly the trip consisted of time with family talking about day-to-day stuff – kids, work, friends, holidays. The health journey I have been on for the last year was by and large subsumed into the every day to-ing and fro-ing of life.

On the flight home, I reflected on my feelings: sadness –knowing it could be some time till I see my family again; and also happiness – at the prospect of getting home again.  For a moment I had a hint of regret that I hadn’t used the opportunity to say all the important stuff I knew I had wanted to. And then I realised, I hadn’t actually needed to say anything at all.

In many ways my trip to Scotland didn’t meet the expectations I had created in my mind. It would be easy therefore to feel disappointed. But instead I look at how the 3 weeks went and I am grateful for the outcome – I knew the outcome I wanted from the trip was to re-connect with family, to show them I am well and thriving post-cancer. I thought the way to achieve that was through deep and meaningful conversations when, in fact, all that was required was presence – just being with each other was all that was needed. I achieved my outcome, but not in the way I planned.

Whether you are planning your career, a holiday or your life, go after the outcome you want, focusing on the experience you desire. But be flexible about how you achieve that outcome and experience, or the expectations you create may disappoint you. 

PS If you’d like to spend 15 minutes with me talking about how to create a reality that makes YOU happy, I’m all yours.  I’ve opened up 7 slots to talk in the next week. Together we’ll discuss what you want to achieve, what you need to do to get there and whether or not I can help you do that. Free of charge. Let’s put your plan together. Just click here to book your time in my diary.

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