Blog: Intention vs. Expectation

It’s funny how some things are really difficult to do at the beginning, but as you go along they get easier.  Some people have said that’s because you get stronger.  I’m sure you learn the skills necessary to make that thing easier and become adaptable. I want to touch on this one final point in this series of fear vs. faith, and scarcity vs. abundance.

I remember when I had just had my fourth baby, and I went to the gym alone to use the pool. I was in the locker room, and this mom came in with her four young kids to use the pool, and they all went in four directions.  One was running around naked, one was screaming, and the mom was calling out to one who needed a swim diaper. I just remember thinking, oh my gosh, I am NOT ready for that yet! My expectation of coming to the pool with my four little kids was that I would be that mom, and my kids would be running all over the place. I had so much anxiety just thinking about it. But of course, when we got our pool pass last summer, we were all very adept at going to the pool by the end of the summer, even with a toddler and a preschooler. And yes, they did run all over the place, and they were crazy, but my intention was to learn how to adapt to this new situation, so we did.

When I reflect on how challenging things are as a new mom, it is overwhelming because everything is a new skill. EVERYTHING. Then, with each additional child, you start all over again trying to figure out how to manage having a newborn added to the mix. There was this one day, I was sitting in the parking lot of the grocery store, nursing my first baby, and I watched a woman quickly get a double-seated cart and go back to her car.  She place her two small children in the seats, and put an infant in a carrier. I was so impressed that she had obviously planned out this strategy carefully beforehand. I wondered what it would take to manage such a feat!

There have been many trips to the grocery store since then when I have been so exhausted that we all just sat in the car because someone fell asleep and I didn’t have the energy to wake them and deal with them being cranky. Or, when I had nursing babies, we would often take an extra half an hour or more before getting out of the car so we could get through the errand before the babe would get hungry again. I know what it’s like to sit there and just want to cry and say, I cannot do this.

In my last post, I talked about this idea of scarcity vs. abundance, and how we limit ourselves and our possibilities by being closed to challenges/adversity, and becoming absorbed in our trials. It is so easy to live beneath our privilege without even realizing it. When life presents us with a new challenge, it is so easy to shut down and shout, “I can’t do this!” or “I don’t know how to do this.” or “I can’t have that” – whatever that thing is! But this is the exact language that puts us into scarcity mode.

I recently saw this talk with Christie Marie Sheldon and, while I don’t know about everything she talks about, she says something about this idea of how our language has an affect on our thoughts and our energy in a way that limits ourselves. We express these judgements or beliefs without even realizing it sometimes. How easy is it to say, “I don’t know?” “I can’t do this.” “I don’t know how we can afford that.” “We can’t afford that.” “We can’t do that.” “We can’t have that.” “That’s not possible.” These phrases immediately shut down our resolve, and we are motivated by fear. Suddenly, we are running away from something, and we didn’t even realize it, and we are trapped in scarcity.

When I have talked about creating a family culture, it is so easy to say, I don’t know how, or I can’t do those things. But then, why not? What am I afraid of? When I’m honest with myself, I think it is just exhausting to think of a solution. It is so much easier to expect that a solution is too difficult or that I am simply not capable. But then, the consequence is the problem goes unsolved, and there’s still misery and fear.

When you stand at the foot of a mountain and you can’t even see the summit, it is so easy to say, I can’t do this! I don’t have the right tools. I’m not prepared for this. I’m not strong enough. I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. I don’t know what it takes to climb a mountain! Scarcity, scarcity, scarcity!

There is a very simple change that can switch our mind from scarcity to abundance, from fear to faith. Instead of saying, I can’t, you say, how can I?  You say, “What would it take? What would it take to make it happen?” (see this video @ 23:50-25:00). How can it be done? How can we afford that? How can we do this? What can we do to prepare for this blessing? Where can we find the skills we need? Remember, that anything you can imagine can be developed like a skill if you just set an intention, change your habits and beliefs, and start asking different questions. When we ask these kinds of questions, we start thinking about how to answer those questions. And then we get better at acquiring whatever it takes.

Let go of judgements, and limiting beliefs. It isn’t about asking “what ‘should’ this be like?” or “what ‘should’ I be doing?” because then you’re holding on to those limiting beliefs that end up holding you back. I ‘should’ be more capable. I ‘should’ be a better mom. I ‘should’ be thinner. I ‘should’ be happier. It ‘should’ be easier to be organized or have my kids be more cooperative. Let it go! Those expectations are keeping you from being present to your current needs and asking what it would take. It means asking, what could I be doing?

This is exactly what has started me on this journey in the first place! I asked, how can I find the solution to having a happier family? How can I prepare my children to reach their full potential? What can I do to help provide for my family and change our lives?

I was at the foot of my mountain, and I thought, what will it take to get to that summit? I’m not at the top yet, but the climb is getting easier, bit by bit. The way is unfolding with each step I take into the dark. I imagine that when I do reach that peak, I will look down at the terrain I have navigated, and weep at the realization of the miracle that has just occurred in my life.

I remember thinking that I couldn’t take my kids to the pool, or into the grocery store.  I thought I couldn’t manage it, but like anything novel and strange, with practice it gets easier. More than this, you get better at it, and then your skills rise to a higher level. We did get better at going to pool. We are getting better at going out together. We are getting better at doing things that are difficult at first.

Just start asking yourself, how can we do this? How can we develop this family intention? How can we reinforce our vision and standards? How can we create a plan for our family? How can we afford to make this change? How can we create more unity? Now, you are running toward a goal, running toward something in faith, rather than running away from something in fear.

I want to make a small shift here, and relate these ideas on one more level. In “The Awakened Family”, Dr. Shefali Tsabary discusses this idea of intention vs. expectation that made me think about fear vs. faith-based motivation and scarcity vs. abundance.

Expectation is future-centered which means the outcome is outside of our control.  Expectations place an agenda on circumstances generally on something or someone else.  We place expectations on our spouses that they will do something we want them to.  We place expectations on others to meet our needs.  Or, we have expectations of the way things “should” be or “ought to” be. When we have expectations, we are basing the actions of others on a need by our compulsion or orders.  In expectations, we place the responsibility on others to fulfill our desires.  We are limiting our idea of what success looks like when we have an expectation.  When I talked about deliverance, our expectation is that God will deliver us, but when that is not what happens, we are disappointed that this is not how life “should” be!

Here are few other words that come to mind when discussing expectations: force, dictation, judgement, criticism, anxiety, “should”, shame, scarcity, fixed mindset, focusing on results, private agenda enforced onto others, frustration, and often disappointment.

I can say that by homeschooling my kids, I expect them to do “school” every day.  Or, I can say I expect my kids to do well in their sports, or whatever.  But what happens when they fail? How will our relationship change if the expectations are not met? When I am living in a state of “should” then I might feel ashamed when my idea of what should be isn’t met.

Intention is different.  When you have an intention, you are present-focused rather than future-focused.  You are present and look at the situation from what you can do now.  You place the responsibility for your results on yourself and what you are capable of.  You recognize that you can’t change others, only yourself.  You are fully engaged in the process rather than distracted by desired results.  Intentions are goal-oriented with the faith that you’re going in the right direction. With intention, we attract what we want by leading out in the behaviors we value.  When you’re fully engaged in the process you are adaptable and allow the reality of life to ebb and flow while heading for the desired outcome.

Here are a few more words I associate with intention: agency, leadership, growth mindset, trust, solution-seeking, process-oriented, grace, vision.

When I set an intention for my homeschool, I say our home is a place of love and learning, where we perform all we do to the best of our ability.  Now, I have a role in this vision that encourages all of us to grow.  We engage in the day-to-day process of becoming, rather than feeling disappointed that we aren’t yet.

It’s like crossing an old bridge.  You can look down at your feet, and the abyss below, and cross in fear that the bridge will break, and freak out at ever creaking sound the bridge makes.  Or, you can ask, “how can we get across this bring?” and you can plan out your steps looking for stronger boards as you go, and look up to look forward to reaching the other side.

So, when you set an intention statement or a vision or mission statement, it is based on commitments to working toward your vision.  It isn’t an expectation statement when we want everyone to behave in a way that is inauthentic or is authoritarian in nature.  An intention statement is a statement of values and standards that focus on the process of achieving the vision we have for our family.

Refer back to my interview with Mary Ann Johnson for tips on how to form an intention statement by using her free download to guide you through the process.

Being more intentional about our family culture means that we think through the process, and respond to situations as they arise, rather than reacting to them without thinking about it.  Being present and mindful allows us to be fully engaged in the process, aware of the moments of raw emotion, mindful of the needs and hopes of each person each day. Being intentional means we act on faith that we are going toward our vision, rather than reacting from fear and unmet expectations. It means we ask “what would it take in this moment to change the feeling in our family?” “what would it take to maintain the vision, and values we have for our family?” “how can we achieve our goals and dreams?”

I know this post is a little random, but it is really the last in this series of my thoughts about fear. I hope you have found these insights helpful. I often don’t consider these subtle nuances in my thoughts and words. It’s easy to think of the ‘should’s and say “I don’t know.” Such a simple thing to change that can create a new mindset for our families, and recreate our family culture to reach its full potential.

It does get easier. We can learn to do what it takes. Just keep asking, what would it take?

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About the author, Jodi

I live in Richmond, Virginia with my husband, Michael, and our four young kids. We homeschool, and work remotely, so I guess we may take this on the road some day! I have a bachelor's degree from George Mason University in Health Promotion Studies, but I attended five different universities before finally finishing while I was expecting my third baby! I'm a returned missionary from the Hawaii Honolulu Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'm sort of a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none, but I do enjoy reading personal development and parenting books, finding new ways to enjoy exercising, and learning more about being an entrepreneur.

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