← Back to All Columns

Columns

Not So Great Expectations

I’m trying to go into 2018 without any expectations. 2017 was an “everything but the kitchen sink” year of disasters, shootings, #metoo horror stories, nuclear missile tests and the constant barrage of tweets. It was quite the cluttered year; sort of a hoard of deplorable events. I’ve been thinking about how to make 2018 different, even though I have absolutely no influence on Mother Nature or Kim Jong-Un.

First of all I’m going to stop watching the news obsessively. Our October wildfires and the December wildfires in southern California got me hooked on the news in a very unhealthy way. It helped me feel connected during the fires, but now it’s more of a frazzled, irritable and “world could end at any moment” sort of feeling, which is probably reasonable but is not helpful to anybody.

Second, I’m going to lower my expectations, in fact, I’m going to try not to have expectations at all. If you don’t expect to be able to charge up your phone and other devices when you get to the airport, you won’t be disappointed if the power fails, as it did at the Atlanta airport in 2017. You may spend your vacation at the airport, but at least you’ll be able to text your friends and read books on Kindle unlike all those people with high expectations of electricity and WiFi. Fools!

Seriously though, lowered expectations are surprisingly helpful for achieving goals. When I tell myself I only have to do 20 minutes on the treadmill, or even just five, I almost always exceed that minimal amount. If I tell myself I only need to declutter one area, often the whole house gets a sprucing without any angst. If I take things one day at a time—like no sugary snacks, just for today—the string of days can add up to weeks and months, seemingly with no effort.

I’m not going to set any resolutions this year, are you? 2017 kind of beat the ol’ habit of starting the new year with better habits out of me. I’m tired of rules, and my husband is really, thoroughly tired of rules. That’s not to say I won’t remind him to put the dirty dishes in the sink. For the millionth time.

But I’m hoping to get back into an optimistic frame of mind by the time you read this. Turning off the news will definitely improve my mood and free up some hours. Exercise also never lets me down—if nothing else, a workout is always a little “win” for the day. Other things that have worked for me that I intend to embrace again are gratitude lists (writing down three or more things you are grateful for each day); community service (to be part of the solution, which makes the problems seem so much less daunting); and meditation (the first thing I always chuck when I get busy or stressed even though I know that ten minutes of meditation in the morning makes the day much better).

Something new that has really helped lift my mood is cryotherapy, which involves a “cold sauna” machine developed for arthritis in the 1970s. Cryotherapy is now used by professional athletes such as LeBron James and peak performers like Tony Robbins to battle a variety of injuries and ailments. Napa now has a cryotherapy provider in town at the Gitali Institute on First Street near California (www.cryoaid.com, 707-726-2653). I love it and would do it every day if I could.

Cold therapy and hot yoga were the best habits I developed in 2017 and will continue with in 2018. Sometimes pushing through discomfort (extreme cold, purging paper in the office, the last set of abdominal exercises) is what’s necessary to progress. And if you keep your expectations in check, the results will feel even better.