The Best Advice I’ve Received

The Best Advice I’ve Received 

How my dad's advice helped me through one of my toughest adventures

I didn't know it at the time, but I received some of the best advice when I was just 13 years old. I was riding in the car with my dad after spending the weekend with him and my sister. My parents had recently divorced so every other weekend we would meet at a drop-off point between Milwaukee and Green Bay to either pick my sister and I up to go to dad’s or to come back ‘home’ to my mom’s house. The long talks on the rides between my two homes are some of my favorite memories with my dad.

I was experiencing a lot of change around this time, I was starting high school, my mom had remarried and my brother Mack was born. There were so many changes swirling around me and I had little to no control over what was happening so I often confided in my dad. During one of our talks he told me: “One of the best things you can learn in life is to manage your expectations.”

This advice wasn't particularly groundbreaking to me at the time; in fact as a very sensitive person I probably thought it was a little harsh. But throughout my life I’ve remembered this piece of advice and each time it becomes a more powerful tool that I can come back to when I am facing a difficult situation. Managing expectations is a tool I use in every day, but there are certain instances where I call on my dad’s advice a little more than usual. One of these situations is when I am going to make a big life change like moving to a new city, starting a new job or even traveling.

Often times when we are about to make a big change, we imagine how we think the event will play out based on expectations created by society or through watching movies and TV shows. The expectations we create around big changes are dangerous because they can set us up for major let downs.

I faced the harsh reality of failed expectations when I moved from Wisconsin to Chicago three years ago. I had all kinds of ideas about how wonderful and glamorous my life was going to be in the big city, all the girlfriends I was going to make friends with and the great life I was going to create. It was truly perfect! Then reality set in and I discovered that making friends as a young adult is much harder than I expected and quite exhausting. Living in a big city is great, but I found my first year here to be very lonely.

I now love living in Chicago and I have created a wonderful life here, but looking back, I wonder if my experience would have been different during that first year if I would have managed my expectations. What I was expecting was an episode of Sex and the City, but the reality was I spent a lot of weekends hanging out in my apartment with my cat. Now when I embark on an adventure, I try to remember that life isn't a movie. Life is awkward and lonely sometimes, but it is also beautiful if we go in expecting that there might be a few bumps in the road but most likely everything is going to work out but if it doesn’t, that’s ok too.

Living through many disappointments has made me understand my dad’s advice, and change the way I approach situations. Part of my “ah ha” moment has come through my mindful practice and realizing how distractions or high expectations prevent us from enjoying the moment we’re living in. My dad’s advice ties in to what mindfulness encourages: having more awareness and managing our expectation in order to be present and enjoy the moment we’re in, even when facing adversity.

What’s the best advice you’ve received?