New Year, New Expectations: Reexamine & Reset

Day 4 of the New Year series focuses on expectations and how we sometimes need to reexamine and reset our expectations when our expectations don’t mesh with life.

We all have expectations of how our day will go, or how a new job will be, or what our new year will bring. But sometimes life gets in the way and interferes with our expectations. When this happens, we basically have two options:

  1. Get mad, throw a temper tantrum, and hold our breath until things go our way. I call this the acting-like-a-3-year-old option.
  2. Reexamine our expectations against reality, and then reset our expectations accordingly. This does not mean we have to lower our expectations. Just reset them based on the new information that life provided.

Now I admit, sometimes we do both. We start with option 1. But hopefully, we eventually move to option 2.

Here’s my most recent example.

On December 19, I was ready for my Christmas vacation. I had scheduled 10 days off, starting on December 20, to spend the Christmas holiday with family. I planned to return home to celebrate New Year’s Eve and then go back to work on January 2.

My expectations for the new year were to close out my projects at work, handoff my files to my colleague, pack my apartment, hire a mover, and get ready to move at the end of January. I had accepted a new position in another state, and I was to start the first of February.

Then midnight Friday, December 21 hit and Congress failed to pass an appropriation bill.

No worries. This had happened before and usually within a day or two, Congress passes a bill or at least a continuing resolution.

But Christmas came and went. One week passed and nothing happened. The government was officially shut down. I was officially furloughed (sent home without pay) until further notice.

I admit, while I may have not had an actual temper tantrum, I had the adult version—stress eating, being short with people, and refusing to put on pants. (Leggings are the best thing when one is stressed, does not want to deal with reality, and wants to stay inside, huddled in a blanket.)

As a furloughed government employee, I couldn’t stay on holiday. If the government reopens tomorrow, I have to report. So at the end of my 10 days, back to D.C. I went.

Then New Year’s Day came and went. Still nothing from Congress.

Two weeks.

Three weeks.

Now we’re at the start of week 4. At this point, there are no expectations of when Congress might take some action. Over 800,000 federal workers, myself included, are stuck in furlough limbo. No paycheck. No reassurances that we will get retro pay. No confidence that our elected leaders will take any action any time soon.

And my expectations? Well, I’ve had to adapt and manage those things that are within my purview.

(In this case, adapting did not mean taking off my leggings. I haven’t worn real pants in quite a while.)

But I did do what I could. With the government shut down, I have no one to turn in a two-week notice to, so I have to wait. I was able to push back my start date to mid-February. Then I’ve had to reassess my bills and prioritize spending.

I’ve had to reset my expectations against reality.

Does it suck? Hell, yes. Is it stressful? Incredibly. But I did not lower my expectations—I still expect to move and start a new job. I adjusted my expectations and took action on what I can control right now.

So when your expectations go awry, go ahead and have some chocolate. But then take a breath, see what the issue is, and reassess, reprioritize, and refocus. Who knows? It may turn out better than you expected.

[postscript: In the meantime, I encourage everyone to write/email/tweet your Senators and Representative daily. This shutdown hurts us all so make your voice heard. Find your Representative here and your Senators here.]

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