I now understand the mid-life crisis

What you expect shapes the lenses by which you see.

Stop.  Read that again. 

Have you ever experienced this?  If there is one piece of advice I have for young married husbands, besides be faithful & get good at saying “I’m sorry. I was wrong”, it’s this: manage your wife’s expectations at all times.  Consider the following example from my comedy of errors.

When I was a newlywed, I cultivated this awful habit, especially when I was late, of telling my wife I would be home by 5:30PM, knowing full well I couldn’t physically be home before 5:45PM.  Why dId I do this?  Because I wanted to tell her what I thought she wanted to here, not the truth of the situation.  No matter how much I raced home, I was always 15-20 minutes late, and she was upset.  

On the other hand, if I had said, “Babe, I’m sorry.  I’m running a little late.  I’ll be home by 6:00PM.”, she still would have been disappointed, but her expectation would have been properly set according to the reality of the situation.  Now, imagine how she felt when I rolled in at 5:45PM, 15 minutes earlier than expected?  Notice, my arrival time didn’t change.  Only her expectation changed.  It’s sad that it took me several years and many disappointments to figure this out.  

Now, transfer this idea from one evening to one’s life, and what do you think happens?

The expectations you have in your mind create the framework by which you evaluate your life, and poor expectations can drastically impact how you feel.  And how you feel often steers the choices you make.  

During my senior year of college, a friend’s dad went out and bought a fancy red Sports car – it was either a Pontiac Firebird or a Chevrolet Camaro – and he did it on a whim. The car was completely decked outa nd must have cost at least $30,000, which was a lot for a car in that day. She told me that he bought the car because he was having a midlife crisis, which I didn’t understand. How can a crisis be the reason somebody spends $30,000? That concept just didn’t make sense to me and my limited frame of reference as a 21-year-old college student.

Now, 16 years later as I approach my 37th birthday, it’s starting to make more sense. For many, life is not what we expected it to be. It hasn’t lived up to the promises made to us when we were younger. That the world was at our fingertips, that we could do anything we want to be anything we wanted and have anything we wanted. I believe, especially in America, that those ideals are true, but the choices that we make often eliminate most of those realities, leaving us discouraged and disappointed. We don’t have the career that we thought we would have, we don’t live in the house we thought we would have, and we don’t drive around in the car that we plastered on the front of our notebooks in school. And no matter how great our life may be, we simply don’t have the life we expected to have. 

As a result of not meeting these expectations, most people do something irrational. They buy a car they can’t afford, they quit their job without a plan, or they get a divorce and start over. Rather than evaluate the situation, they go off the deep end and do something crazy, something that they believe will bring them closer to the reality they expected.  Unfortunately, most people choose this path in some form or fashion.

There’s another option to this mid-life crisis dilemma, one that will be more difficult, but in the end will be much more fulfilling and much less destructive.  Rather than change our reality in an attempt to meet our expectations, it would be more profitable to work through the process of resetting our expectations in order to align with the realities of life.

Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying.  I am not saying that we should give up on our expectations and simply accept life as is.  For some, this may be the best option, but it’s not what I’m suggesting.  There are only two reasons a person does not achieve what they expected;  they either failed to do the work required to achieve their expectation, or their expectation wasn’t realistic.   What I’m suggesting is to either get to work if oour expectation is well within our reach or to adjust our expectations to that which is within our reach.


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