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  • Writer's pictureKristin Helgerson Frigelj

When expectations are too high

Our office-guest room combo has been driving me crazy for the past year. Our kids shared a room up until then and ever since we combined the guest room with our workspace it's been a dumping ground for whatever doesn't fit anywhere else in the house.

I planned a makeover; trying to use as much as we had but spicing it up a bit plus plenty of purging and organizing.

My husband was going to be away for five days and I planned to do it over that time period. Why do I plan things when I'll be alone? Who knows! But I love an organizing challenge and I honestly enjoy putting together furniture. (And let's be more honest, I'd have total control if I did it alone!)

I accomplished a lot over the weekend and felt happy with the progress. I even gave up putting together the biggest piece of new furniture for a few hours Sunday but doubled down and enlisted some 9- and 7-year-old helpers to get it done. My stubbornness prevailed.

No before picture of the closet but taking everything out of it really proved enlightening to see how much

had been squeezed into it! The after photo is still full but much more organized.

I'm proud to say I did finally get rid of grad school course binders!

Maximizing floorspace while having room for guests was a must so this fold-out Murphy bed cabinet was a great solution.

Even with the major progress I made I began noticing a few guilty feelings crop up because I didn’t paint the accent wall yet.

And then I noticed as they passed pretty quickly after I considered where that guilt was coming from.  

Had anyone but me placed a deadline on this project? Was I considering everything else I had going on over the weekend in addition to this project?

Nope, I was simply having a knee-jerk reaction to “not finishing” instead of stepping back to see all I had accomplished.  I enjoyed working on this room. I had fun shopping at Ikea, making a bigger mess of the room before getting it back together, and loved when that bed finally slid into place.

The disappointment that I felt due to not "finishing" was self-inflicted. I'll tell you what I didn't do though.

I did not force it away or get mad at myself for feeling that way.

I felt the emotion and then asked myself what feeling guilty would help me do.

In this situation guilt was not going to be helpful to me moving forward. No one else cared what I got done that weekend. I didn't promise my husband a 100% renovated room upon his return. Guilt didn't help me make better decisions in the next moments.

As I noticed the emotion I was, however, able to take note of why it showed up. I had high expectations of myself. I set a big goal for the weekend. And I made choices to enjoy other areas of my life in addition to this makeover.

Practicing responses like this is helpful to let go of the struggle against the icky stuff that shows up for us when we live a full life. I could have wallowed in disappointment and shame that I didn't get the painting done, but when I say that out loud... I realize how silly it is. I set the expectation and I fully had the power to say, "cool, I got a ton done and enjoyed it all so no worries what's left!"

With this lesson behind me, I can focus on the next step of this fun project:

a white wall next to a window with three various shades of paint samples taped to the wall
decisions, decisions...

What do you tend to do when guilt crops up in your life? Have you ever made room for it and watched what it does for your next steps?

Guilt and stress are two emotions that most folks would like to have less in their daily lives. Instead of pushing them away we can practice to accept and respond to them differently. This skill is a top strategy we train on in my 2-hour ACT Intensive session!

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