Mary D’Amato

ARTICLES

“Expectations”

When was the last time you checked your expectations? This story reminds me to do that often & has resulted in some surprising “AHA’s.” Once there was a young couple who fell in love, got married and had twin boys, Jeff and Dan, and that is where the “ordinary” stops. Although twins, the boys grew up with totally different viewpoints of life. As they moved from toddler to school-age, the differences became even more evident. Jeff’s outlook was so positive that nothing seemed to bother him or upset him. He started each day expecting it to turn out well & even with challenges, he approached them with a positive attitude and worked through them. Dan, however, was constantly caught up in a “never good enough” or “always bad” mentality. If faced with a challenge or a disappointing situation, he tended to act like a victim rather than look for a creative or innovative solution.

One afternoon the family went for ice cream. While walking home, Jeff’s half-finished scoop of ice cream fell to the ground. Although his parents offered to get him another scoop, he declined their offer, saying there was still a lot of ice cream in the cone. Dan was busy counting his sprinkles to prove he had been slighted and didn’t even notice Jeff’s situation. The parents became even more concerned and sought the advice of a child therapist. After speaking with the boys, she too was concerned with the boys’ extreme perspectives. While she approved of Jeff’s positive approach to life, she wanted to be sure his expectations would be realistic as he grew older. She was, however, deeply concerned about Dan and his overall fatalistic view. After talking with the parents again, she suggested very drastic & immediate actions, hoping to turn things around. Since it was nearing the boys’ birthday, she suggested 2 dramatic interventions. They were to fill Dan’s bedroom with as many toys and gifts that they could fit in the room. They covered the floor from bed to door with a bike, a remote plane, sports equipment, books, and video games. Jeff was to be given an equally impactful intervention. Quietly and carefully, his parents snuck into his bedroom laid down a tarp and filled the room with horse manure.

The next morning Dan’s parents rushed to his room, expecting to see him at least a little happy with all he had received for his birthday. Instead, they found Dan sitting on the bed crying. When they asked why he was crying, he said he was afraid to ride the bike because he’d fall off and get hurt, the plane would eventually crash and burn, he didn’t know how to play the video games, and he had no place to put all this away. Needless to say, they were extremely disappointed! On the way to Jeff’s bedroom, they crossed their fingers and hoped for a different outcome. When they got there they saw the window was open and with a small sand shovel, Jeff was shoveling the manure out the window as fast as he could. When they asked if he was upset about his birthday present, he said, “Oh no, I’m excited!” Not believing what they had just heard, his mother asked, “Excited? Why in the world are you excited?” Still shoveling, Jeff responded, “’Cause with all this horse poop there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!” Jeff and Dan’s reactions are good example of how our expectations can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Another real example is in sports, as we hold our breath when watching a player faced with making the winning basket, kick, or goal. Will they score?
I can tell you who will not “make it.” It is the player who succumbs to the saboteur voice of anxiety, fear and the possibility of a negative result. And the player who does succeed? It is not the player who has practiced or played the most games. It is the player who is relaxed, focused and concentrates on a positive result. They are like a Samurai warrior who empties their mind of all distractions and considers nothing but a positive result.

The question for us all is, “What are we focused on; more ice cream or fewer sprinkles? Are we expecting to learn from our challenges or to be victimized by them? Are we be able to “score” or will we be paralyzed by the saboteurs of a negative result. Remember, “There’s a pony in there somewhere!”

“Mental Fitness Break”

When was the last time you took a real mental fitness break from work? When was the last time you allowed yourself to put thoughts about work, or projects, or other peoples demands in a “mental drawer” only to be opened later?​

Saturday a friend cranked up his 1922 Ford Model T & took me for a cup of hand churned ice cream. We allowed the wind to mess our hair, the noise to cause us to shout just to be heard, the bumpy road to bring us to giggles. People surrounded us when we parked & we chatted & laughed & let the kids honk the horn. For 3 hours I allowed myself to feel & enjoy the afternoon like a child on a field trip.​ What has this to do with “work?” Nothing, except when the day was done, I felt refreshed & de-stressed. And from that mental fitness break I was open, even eager to check off some things on my business “to-do” list.​

Mental fitness is like physical fitness – you have to give yourself permission to go to the gym & take time to do your reps. You also need to give yourself permission to go to a place or state of joy &/or contentment in order to build positive neuro pathways to overcome stress & negativity.​ Try it! Give yourself a mental fitness break. It may not be in a Model T or take an afternoon. I once had a client who gave herself permission to step away from her desk for at least 30 minutes 3 times per week to have lunch. She later grudgingly admitted she was more productive in the afternoons when she did that.​

Your break need not be long or complicated. It may be simply to write a handwritten note to a friend; stopping to pet the cat that’s trying to sit on your computer; or doing a few deep breaths to clear your mind. It’s your mental fitness. Give yourself permission to do what it takes to be “fit.” #mentalfitness, #wellness, #mindfulnesspractice

Mary D’Amato

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Mary D'Amato

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