The Being & The Doing EPISODE 25:
Is Your Life a Gong Show?
Managing Expectations to Reduce Stress
Does life sometimes feel chaotic and out of control? It can be stressful when your life becomes a gong show of too many commitments, too little time and energy and unexpected events disrupting the flow. In this episode I share how expectations can create chaos and an important strategy for managing expectations to reduce unnecessary stress in your life.
*A full transcript is at the bottom of the page.
Strategies for Managing Stress
If you want strategies for managing stress when life becomes chaotic, listen to this podcast episode, Finding Calm in the Midst of Chaos, which shares tips for going with the flow.
This Episode’s Homework
Something to think about:
What expectation do I have that continually disappoints me?
Is this something that is within my control?
Something to try:
Pick something that is happening this week and name your expectations about it.
The shift to an anticipation approach – focus on what is in your control and preplan how you want to handle it.
After notice what your experience was like. What shifted for you?
You can grab your FREE homework Awareness & Action guide HERE
Scroll on down to the comments section and share your thoughts on the gong show of life….
What things turn your life into a gong show?
How do manage unexpected disruptions to your best laid plans?
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CREDITS: The Being & The Doing podcast is produced by Neela Bell. Voiceovers by Jason Harris. Music is Good Morning Sunshine by Yoav Alyagon and Firefly by Scott Buckley.
Full Transcript of the Show
Laurel: Hey, lovely ones. Welcome to Episode 25 of The Being and the Doing. So before we jump into today’s topic, which is about life and being chaotic, I want to thank you for your support because it means a lot to me, all the different ways that you support the show.
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Okay, so today’s topic is around the chaos in life and I have Neela, the producer of the show here with me. How are you doing, Neela?
Neela: I’m great. Thanks for having me back.
Laurel: So, here’s a question. Does it ever feel like life is a gong show?
Neela: Oh my God! When isn’t life a gong show?
Laurel: Okay, well I want to say geez, hopefully, life is not a continual gong because if it is; wait if life is a continual gong show for you, you really need to be listening to today’s episode.
Neela: That’s true.
Laurel: Because we’re going to get to that like, wow, if it’s a continual gong show like there are some things we could do to make that not happen. But there’s a gong show element to life actually, I was just thinking well, even using that reference gong show, holy smokes, that’s a cultural reference that maybe if you are a younger viewer, you’re thinking, what, like do I understand that?
You know, the Gong Show being this crazy television show, I think I want to say in the 70s were like horrific performers would come on and then like the panel got to gong them off if they were not good. Think like America’s Got Talent with people who have really no talent. Anyways, I digress.
Life being chaotic or having that feeling like; what is happening, why is this going sideways? And I think that the busier that we get, the more distracted that we get, the more chaotic it feels. The more it feels like life is just doing these randomly crazy things.
Neela: Right, I think too there’s you know, the chaos can come from, you know, things we can anticipate like it’s Christmas, or it’s my mom’s, you know, 80th birthday or, you know whatever or it’s, you know, my kids going away on a trip and you know, and that kind of thing, things we have a little notice.
And then, of course, there’s this chaos that happens, the unscheduled chaos of things that can just sort of spring on us. And I think, you know, those are some of the times when we really have to dig into the old toolkit that we’ve built up, hopefully. And how do we manage the planned and unplanned chaos?
Laurel: Yeah, I’ve always, you know, I’ve talked about this for a long time you know, way back. When I first started working as a coach, you know, the thing that everybody wants to talk about was life balance. “I want life balance. Where is life balance? How do I have life balance?”
And even then, you know, I was talking about this idea of the natural chaos of life and the reason why sometimes we feel like chaos, that balance is elusive is because there are these unpredictable random things that happen completely out of our control. So all of the things like people getting sick or getting caught in a traffic jam or you know, just something unexpected.
I actually, a longtime client, the first time she heard me speak, the first time she had seen me, I was at an event and I posed the question; has anything ever unexpected happen to you? And she said that was like this light bulb moment for her because she said yes, all the time. And why does that keep happening?
Well, the answer is, because that is just what life is like. Life is unpredictable and random and there are just a ton of things out of our control. And so that does begin to create the chaotic nature of life. Back in, as you will remember Neela back in Episode Four, I did an episode called; Finding Calm in the Chaos, which was all about how in the face of the randomness of life when things are just ‘aah!’ how do we maintain a sense of calm or feel grounded?
So I’ll leave the link to that episode in the show notes. It’s a good one to go back and listen to again, in terms of how do I manage that? I don’t know, do have things that help you in the chaotic part of life that is unpredictable. What helps you?
Neela: Well, I can tell you one thing that I’m not sure is like a strategy, it’s more of an attitude thing. And again, I do credit you for a lot of, everything in my life has come some way from Laurel. But I think this idea of how do I look at a thing that’s just happened to me and I think as I get older and I just crossed the 50 mark, I have a way better sense of humor about things that happen.
So I don’t always look at the chaos as being this negative overwhelming thing that happens. Sometimes I can just go, oh my god, my life is an ‘SH’ you know, what show, have a laugh, maybe a glass of wine is involved at some point or talking with a good friend or whatever it is. But the idea of reframing the chaos in my head has really been super helpful.
So because I think sometimes you compound the problem, and I know this is one of the things that you were going to get to today. How are you compounding the problem and making it worse just by your attitude?
Laurel: Exactly, which is sort of kind of the essence of the being and the doing so this mindset part that you’re talking about, I mean, that’s all about being, right. Like how is it I want to be in the face of the gong show of life. Where you know just today everything just randomly went off the rails, completely out of my control, how do I want to be with that, that mindset part which is the being.
But then there is also this doing part of and what is it that I want to do, what are the actions that I can take that either helped me manage that random chaos or help me not create chaos in my own life. Like, trust me, life has got its, you know, a warehouse of randomly chaotic things it’s going to bring you.
Sometimes it dulls them out in small little bits, here’s a little chaos, here’s a little chaos. Sometimes it’s like, okay, here is the cornucopia of chaotic, random, unexpected things happening all at once. There are things that I can do to help me manage that.
But I think for the purpose of today, what I really want to share is some ideas on this not creating your own chaos or how to maybe minimize the creation of your own chaos. I don’t think we’re going to eliminate us creating our own chaos because we’re human beings and we, you know…
Neela: We try to stick, I was gonna say carbon-neutral sort of like chaos-neutral, don’t add to it.
Laurel: Yeah, or try to minimize the amount that we’re adding to it because we will add it you know and then you know we recognize, wow, like I’m the one who’s kind of stirring the pot here. So yeah, I have some ideas on not creating more chaos than already naturally exists in life.
So there are lots of ways that we contribute to the chaos. Things like we over-commit ourselves, we over-schedule ourselves, we don’t set boundaries. We don’t say no, we just kind of let boundaries sort of float away and that leads us to over committing or committing to things that we don’t really want.
I think we add to the chaos by not being clear about our priorities because if we don’t know what’s important, then all kinds of things that are unimportant get to take up time and energy and space. But I think one of the things that we don’t consider as often is the expectations that we set.
So when we hold expectations about things, we are inviting chaos. And if we can pay attention to our expectations because they really are troublemakers in our lives; expectations. Like, we have expectations about what a situation should be like or will be like or we have expectations about people in our lives, about what they should do or what they will do and not necessarily.
We also have expectations that life is fair. And life is random like it’s, you know, there’s not, I don’t think there’s someone somewhere keeping you know, this grand tally. That is like, okay, well, we’ll do this and then we’ll do that to this person and somehow it’ll all turn out to be fair. I don’t think so I think that’s just part of the natural chaos of life that life is very random.
But if we have an expectation that life should be fair well, that begins to create greater chaos for us. Because when things don’t go the way that we expected that they should or expect that they will, that creates a lot of stress for us, which adds to the chaos. And that adds to our sense of frustration or irritation or anxiety because now this isn’t the way I thought it should be or the way it “should be”.
So let’s define expectation. An expectation is actually a belief. It’s a strong belief about what is going to happen. I believe that this is what will happen because that’s what I think should happen. Or a belief that someone should or will receive something, that it should work out this way for this person.
So expectations are all about preconceived ideas and outcomes that we have. I think it should be this way. And then we’re disappointed or frustrated or irritated or agitated or stressed…
Laurel: Unprepared, yeah, about things that don’t go that way. And there’s almost, expectations almost come with a sort of a sense of entitlement to things. When I have this strong belief and expectation about this situation you know, this event that’s going to happen, when I have a strong expectation belief about that, it’s almost like I’m entitled to it going the way that I think it should.
So the key thing about expectations is to understand that they are beliefs and they’re based on assumptions. So, when we have beliefs about things, they’re just our beliefs. And we can change them in any way that we want. So just because I believe something does not necessarily make it true. It’s just a belief that I hold, great.
If that belief or belief system works for you, moves you forward, helps create the kind of life that you want terrific. But most of us, me included, hold certain beliefs about things that are not necessarily in service of what it is that I want. So the other thing about expectations is that they’re very passive.
So I expect this; I expect that my partner is going to behave in this certain way. So because I expected I think it’s going to happen that’s very passive. It’s just like, well, I’ve put that out there that should happen or I expect that you know dinner with the family is going to go this particular way or I expect that my team at work is going to behave in a certain way or do a certain thing is very passive because it’s just a belief.
But there’s a way to switch that, shift and look more at anticipation. Because anticipation is an act. Anticipation is the act of looking forward and taking action, prior action in order to create some influence or effect on something that’s going to happen. So I might expect something, well, I expect we’re having dinner this weekend.
Now, if I just leave that in the world of expectations, well, it’s going to be what it’s going to be. But if I think more in terms of anticipation, I can look at that and now take action. So anticipation is an active process, not a passive process. It’s a pre-planning kind of process. So instead of having expectations and being continually disappointed, I can have an anticipation about certain things.
Oh, I anticipate that this might be a challenging conversation or family event or team meeting, I can anticipate that and now I can more proactively make decisions about how I want to show up, what maybe I want to do about it. And, you know, I’ve sometimes you hear people say, well, you know, yeah, expectations really can get you into trouble because we’re always disappointed in our expectations so just lower your expectations.
Okay, well, that does not solve the problem. So now I’ve just lowered my expectation but I haven’t actually done anything to perhaps influence the outcome of what it is that might happen there. So it’s not about oh, well, yeah, I have no expectations at all. Well, first, that’s not true because we do. And we just want to be aware of, oh, I have expectations around that now in anticipation of that, what is it I can do?
Because often the things that we have expectations about are completely out of our control. So I have expectations about how a certain thing will go, well, there’s probably a large part of that’s out of my control or I have expectations about how other people should behave or things they should do. And again, unless you become a source or something that is able to influence, you know to create their behavior, it’s out of your control, too.
So when we shift to this thinking about anticipation, it’s much more proactive because I get to manage what’s in my control. I get to release what’s out of my control. I can focus more on that being part of, how do I want to be about this thing that is completely out of my control? How do I want to be about what I’m expecting someone else to do? Or can I be proactive about what it is I want them to do?
Like lots of times, we have expectations about something that we want someone to do, but we haven’t actually communicated that to them, right. Like we’re using the psychic network, I’m just beaming my thoughts over there. And you know, they haven’t paid up their subscription in the psychic network, didn’t get the message. So they just do what they’re going to do, my expectations were not met. Now I feel disappointed, frustrated, irritated, whatever.
Well, from an anticipation perspective, it could be, wow, this is really what I would like to happen, can I communicate that in some way? And then be able to sort of shape the outcome.
This is a long time ago. At a speaking event, a woman came up to me and we had been talking about relationships, that was sort of the theme in the speaking engagement. And this woman came up to me and she said something like, you know, her husband never gave her hugs like she really wanted hugs and he never gave them to her.
And so I said, “Well, do you ask for a hug?”
And she said, “Well, no.”
And then I said, “Well, if you asked him for a hug, would he give you a hug?”
“Like so why don’t you ask?”
“Well, if you have to ask, it’s not the same.”
Well, wow, that’s a hard expectation to have on people. If there’s something that you want in a relationship and you know what, honey, like it’s really important to me that I get a hug and your partner is willing.
I mean, there’s only a problem when your partner, your husband says yeah, no, I’m like, I’m not hugging you. Okay, then there’s another, all other situation to deal with. So we have this expectation that people’s behavior should be a certain way. Well, from an anticipation perspective, I can be more proactive about that and now I don’t have to be disappointed about what it is that’s going on.
So I can sort of focus my response to something that I anticipate is going to happen, what is within my control that I can actually help proactively manage that situation, have it sort of fulfill what my perhaps expectations are. Or be really aware of the fact that this is just completely out of my control and so now I can focus my response on, what am I going to do in the event that this actually likely happens rather than just you know —
There’s that song; wishing and hoping and dreaming and whatever, man yeah, and now being disappointed that’s not really gonna work. So I think that’s a good shift for us to make when we’re thinking about the chaos, you know, the Gong Show of life. How much are my expectations contributing to that sense of life feeling a little out of control or not being in balance or not going the way I want?
Can I manage expectations a little bit differently by shifting to thinking about anticipation rather than expectation? Shift into the proactive active place, the in my control rather than the passive out of my control place. So I want to leave a little homework. But before I do that, what are your thoughts Neela on that idea of shifting to anticipation rather than expectation?
Neela: No, I love it. And, you know, actually came to mind when you were talking about that is, how do you make that happen? And I thought about something else you often talk about which is creating pauses because I know that my most chaotic times are times when I have just no time. I think things are just happening one after the other, after the other.
But if I had actually like said you know what, I’m going to turn the TV off or I’m going to put my phone down for a bit, you know which sounds a bit contrived or hokey or whatever but you know, sometimes you just have to go. I don’t care if this feels, if I’m feeling self-conscious, I’m just going to do this; create a pause, which is, you know, one of your frequent mantras.
Create a pause, take a pause and just sort of sit there and go, okay, take a few breaths and have that kind of inform this idea of anticipating things coming down. I think that’s maybe getting out a little bit of that. How; how can I do that when I’m maybe not good at that or sometimes if you’re so overwhelmed because the chaos has already started.
Like it’s easy to sit now, maybe not easy. It’s one thing to sit when things are great and talk about it objectively, about all that chaos that happens and it’s another thing to be in the chaos and feeling overwhelmed. Your cortisol levels are sky-high and then I think that comes back to things you’ve often said about. So then how do you how do we stop that cycle? And how do we insert that reflection time and find the pauses, however, feels natural for us?
Laurel: Right, because it is. When you’re in the midst of the chaos, the pause becomes, you know, your real ally in that. And that’s why that, you know, back in Episode four, that there are some really good strategies about how to manage in the chaos. Because I think we have to think about sort of the randomness, the Gong Show aspect of life is not a bad thing.
Like, you know, you don’t want life to be this completely predictable, you know, it always happens this way that’s not the beauty and the wonder of life. I mean, sometimes random things are the most wonderful things that are happening. So we don’t want to make the random, chaotic part of life bad like, that’s not a bad thing, that’s just cool. That’s just life.
We do want to learn the skills to manage it. And then let’s spend a lot less time creating more chaos. And yeah, lots of sort of productivity things around how not to over schedule and how to say no and all of those things. But if we can begin in this place around looking at our own expectations for what’s happening, I think that’s a good start.
So, you know, ‘being and doing’, the homework because what I hope for you, the listener, is to be able to have some ideas here, great and now take it away and be able to work with it. So that it actually begins to create change for you. So ‘being and doing’ the homework is always a little something to think about a little something to try.
And, you know, if you jotted some stuff down, it’s a good thing. Like when we take thoughts out of our heads and put them onto paper, it helps to make them more real. We can actually see what they are, you can always grab in the show notes. There’s a link to a really nice little sort of journaling page that helps you do that.
So here’s something to think about; what expectation do you have that continually disappoints you? So there’s a lot of expectations that we hold on to, that we continually have the same expectation of a person of a situation and it continually disappoints us or frustrates us or irritates us. So just think about that.
What expectation do you continually have that is always disappointing or frustrating or irritating and then is that thing within your control? It might be no. There’s probably some aspect of it that’s in your control. So if it has to do with another person, probably a lot of it out of your control but maybe some piece in your control, maybe there’s a communication part that needs to happen.
But that’s the first place to start thinking and then something to try. So, pick something that’s happening this week. So you want to look ahead in your week, a little bit. And then ask yourself, what are your expectations about that? Name them. What are my expectations for this particular thing? And then see if you can play with shifting to an anticipation approach to it.
Like, focus on what is in my control with respect to that thing, maybe there’s a little pre-planning activity that you can do about it. And then after when it comes to being, notice what your experience was like, did it shift because now you’re thinking about anticipation rather than just resting in the passive place of expectation?
So, that’s it for today. Be sure to subscribe wherever it is that you get your podcasts. Remember, your support is really important to be able to share the content of The Being and The Doing and so if you like it, please subscribe. Please tell your friends and family and then I’ll see you in the next episode. And until then, lovely ones I want you to pause and I want you to breathe and enjoy each and every day.
Outro: You’ve been listening to The Being and The Doing with your host, Laurel Vespi. If you like this podcast, stop whatever you’re doing unless you’re driving and hit subscribe. Leave a review, then share this episode with a friend. Thanks for your support.