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Reduce Stress by Lowering Expectations

    Stress mounts in our lives because we have high expectations of others. We expect our children, employees, spouses and friends to do things for us. When they don't complete the task in what we estimate to be a timely manner, we get irritated. In order to lower our stress we need to lower our expectations of other people.

    It is easy to come up with a long list of tasks that we would like other people to complete. From my wheelchair, I write "To Do" lists for my husband, Mark, on a regular basis. I have all day to think about what I would like him to do. His lists grew extensively right after my spinal cord injury, six years ago. Due to my physical limitations, he has more of the household responsibilities, and needs to retrieve items for me on the second floor, and in the basement of our home.

    Several years after my injury, Mark confessed to me that he had devised a way to deal with the excessive �To Do� lists that I gave him daily. He called it his �80/20 Rule.� He would come home from work each evening and I would give him the list. He took the list to his home office and tore it into two sections: 80% and 20%. He would then mutilate the 80% section in the paper shredder! Now that�s a quick solution to dealing with stress! His logic was that there was no way he could accomplish all that I expected of him, so he focused on 20% of the tasks and forgot about the others. He knew that if I really wanted something done, it would show up on tomorrow�s list.

    And of course he was right!

    We used to have conflicts about the work not being done. The problem was, I wanted him to do everything, and I wanted it done now! I was not prioritizing the tasks. Mark was so overwhelmed with responsibilities at work and at home that he viewed the list as an unstructured aggravation. When we finally discussed solutions so that both of us would lower our stress levels, we settled on an agreement.

    I formulated my future lists by indicating the urgency of completing the tasks. If the job was not time sensitive, then Mark could fit it in when it was convenient for him. I also communicated more details about what was involved in completing each task. It was important for me to realize that I couldn't give him an extensive list, because it would only frustrate him. Mark recognized how important it was to me that he do what I requested and took ownership of his responsibility to help me.

    In the business world, supervisors should have expectations for their staff. Performance needs to be evaluated and the quality, accuracy, efficiency, or other standards of performance, are measured. The problem comes when the bar is raised too high. Employees must have realistic expectations placed on them, and have the capacity to perform the tasks. Skills and knowledge are needed as well as motivation and experience in order to produce quality work. It is one thing for supervisors to recognize what needs to be done, but quite another to realize how many people and how much time it will take to complete the work. Sometimes expectations have to be lowered and new time frames established.

    People should be given the opportunity to assess how soon the task can be completed. Oftentimes they lack the motivation and need to come to terms with their own reasons for getting the job done. Self motivation is powerful. A good leader will offer guidance and encouragement so that those they lead will set their own expectations.

    � Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D.

    Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D. is a speaker and writer. To book her to speak at a conference, or to subscribe to her free monthly inspirational column, go to: Rosemarie Speaks

    Rosemarie conducts presentations that bring out the best in people, to help them achieve goals, and take charge of their lives. Rosemarie helps her audiences discover their inner strength. Her core message is focused on sharing information, strategies, and life lessons that provide the tools to LIVE LIFE WITH CONVICTION.

    She is the author of �Take Back Your Life!� and is Ms. Wheelchair Ohio 2004.

    Rosemarie would like to receive your comments about the impact her article has made on your life. Write her at: Rosemarie@RosemarieSpeaks.com