Have you ever added something to your to-do list with the sole purpose of checking it off because you already completed it? Something about crossing off items on a list is satisfying and makes us feel productive.
We have agendas, checklists, calendar invites, and tools everywhere to remind us of our tasks and make us feel accomplished when we complete them. But what about the non-tasks that take up space in our minds without us even acknowledging them? Where’s the little check mark for those?
The expectations that we have for ourselves and others are like unspoken rules or responsibilities that aren’t included in the job description. They bog us down, take up our time and energy, and weigh on us without being tangible enough to write down. What’s more is that many of them are unproductive, unrealistic, and distract us from our true goals.
In my soon-to-be-released book, Your Life is Not A To-Do List: 10 Tools for a Joy-Filled Entrepreneur Life, I discuss one of my favorite tools for revealing the unrealistic expectations we have for ourselves and how to pare them down to a more concise, achievable list.
Continue reading for the abbreviated version of the steps you can take to start clearing out the clutter and for a sneak preview of the many tools I’ll be sharing in my book.
2023 is the year to clean up your expectations and clear out the clutter living in our minds rent-free.
Step One: Write it Out
Write it all out. Now is the time to Marie Kondo all of the expectations you have for yourself. Start by creating two lists – one for everything that is expected of you, whether by yourself, society, or others, and one for everything you expect of others.
Don’t hold back – this is key to clearing out the clutter. No expectation is too small, and even if it seems ridiculous when written on paper, it should alert you to the ridiculous expectations you may set for yourself. If you expect to have a full fridge at all times, consistently be early to meetings, or remember everyone’s birthday, make sure it ends up on that list. After writing down everything, you might find that your mind had good reason to feel overwhelmed!
Step Two: Prove It
For the next step, look at each list item and ask yourself if it truly makes sense. Is it 100% true that each item can and should be expected of you or others? Try to have the objectivity of a scientist when completing this step. Some of you might have already identified some of these expectations that are unnecessary in step one as you were putting pen to paper.
Step Three: Identify the Source
Next, identify where each expectation came from and find its source. Is it something you made up in your head? Was it an idea planted there from your childhood? Have you compared yourself to someone else or a character in a TV show or movie?
This step is important in identifying thought patterns so that we can better keep our minds clear. You might find that certain experiences routinely trigger the creation of an expectation or that you had been harboring a limiting belief for years. Now is your chance to unpack and find the source of all the clutter.
Step Four: Rewrite the Story
At this point, you probably already feel a sense of relief. Not only are all of your self expectations in one place, but they’re also organized in neat buckets of realistic or unrealistic. Plus, seeing them all on paper can feel oddly validating. If your list was as long as mine (three filled notebook pages), you’ll see it’s no wonder why you’re stressed!
Now it’s time to let go – the expectations that we weeded out as unnecessary should be struck from your list and your mind. They didn’t make the cut and with good reason. What you should have left over is two concise lists of the important expectations, and more often than not, these are the expectations that really matter.
Step Five: Final Round
Next is one final round of vetting. Since your lists are already narrowed down, you should be able to dive deeper into the remaining items.
For each expectation, ask yourself these questions:
- Can I live up to this?
- Do I want to live up to this?
- Will it matter in a week, month, or year if I live up to this?
- What action steps will I take to revise it, get help with it, or let it go?
Each of these questions has a purpose for helping you prioritize and further narrow down your list. They ensure that each item is not only realistic and achievable but that they are also valuable to you and your future and that a revision plan would work if necessary.
Step Six: The Top 10
Now that you have consolidated your lists and reduced them to practical expectations, it’s time to pick your top 10 for both. Make sure that these are the most important expectations that align with who you are, your values, and the best version of you. These ten list items will be your guiding light and should fill you with a sense of satisfaction and purpose.
Now, you only need to adhere to ten expectations (much easier than three pages!).
My personal list includes only the following:
- Have Faith
- Be present
- Learn & grow
- Let love in & out
- Do unto others as they would WANT done unto them
- Practice empathy
- Help First
- Be humble & confident
- Be Me/Be real
- Have More Faith
That’s it. Ten expectations that have been vetted and honed down to only what is realistic, valuable, and constructive. Whenever I find myself getting overwhelmed or disappointed, I make sure to refer to this list to remind myself of my own standards. Trust the process of these six steps and you’ll find yourself feeling lighter and more focused with a decluttered headspace.
Let’s Get Your Company Running on EOS
To discover more tools like these, book a discovery call with me so I can help make 2023 your year for clearing out expectations. Together, we’ll use the EOS framework to find tools like these that will guide the way to a fulfilling, authentic, and empowered entrepreneurial life.
I invite you on a journey of self-discovery and personal growth, into ever-increasing authenticity and self-love.
I created my personal Map of Me to help guide my decisions from a place of strength. My Map of Me has awakened me to who I really am, and who I want to be. It allows me to live from my design at my highest and best, as well as plan to shore up the weaknesses—and it’s given me the ability to see and appreciate the differences. I believe that all individuals should be authentic, open and able to express themselves fully with confidence—your Map of Me is your guide for
doing just that.