Over the last 12 months, Harry and Hanna have gone through plenty of turbulence, uncertainty and chaos at work. My wife and I hadn’t seen them in a while since Harry moved away for his job so sitting down to pizza on a recent Friday night was a treat for us.
Uncertainty, unpredictability and chaos at work and in their life started a little over a year ago when Harry got laid off due to a major downsizing. Around the same time, Hanna gave birth to their second child. Being out of work is stressful enough but the stress of a new baby in the house with no income really amplified the chaos!
When Harry did find a job, about 6 months later it was a God send – a good company, a nice boss – the ideal job BUT in an unideal location. The job was in another state!
“Let’s figure it out and try to make it work”, Harry said as he decided to embrace the chaos and accept working in another state four hours away during the week and commute home to New Jersey on the weekends. “You do what you have to do for your family. It is what it is. And I do it because I have to“, Harry said to me as we ate a slice of pizza.
Curious about the impact of chaos at work on their life and state of mind, I prodded to discover how they’re managing it all, especially now that Hanna started her own new job in the city. Hanna began chiming in, “It’s really, really hard but you get through it. In the beginning, I wanted someone to realize the sacrifices I was making because the majority of the burden was on me. I still remember this one day – here I was, still in my business suit after a long commute home from the city, I held a flimsy umbrella in the pouring rain as I attempted to put the garbage out on the curb while my babysitter stood dry inside holding my two kids watching me and I thought to myself, at least I have an eyewitness for the sacrifices I’m making.”
Finding her emotional honesty, Hanna continued, “You know what, you come home after a long day of dealing with chaos at work, let the babysitter go home and you realize you’ve got chaos at home to deal with and you’re on your own! After feeding them, bathing them and putting them to sleep, you have a good cry. You have that good cry each night and wake up the next day and accept the new reality. You just accept it and move forward.”
“We also realized that we can’t have it all. You focus on the 20% that’s really important and ignore the 80% that’s not”, Harry said as he picked up the baby and put her on his lap. Chuckling a bit Hanna added, “Like having matching pajamas in the kids’ drawer or if the babysitter managed the kids the way we would have or if my new boss thinks I’m doing a good job. Or the high expectations I put on my own career”.
After finishing our pizza I realized two things about my friends. First, both of them put too much pressure on themselves. Whenever they do something for a friend, they want to do it 100% right. No skimping. No excuses. They have high expectations of themselves from their careers to the temperature of the food. It has to be just right…perfect.
Second, I realized that through this experience of chaos and uncertainty they have learned to Adjust their expectations. They’re not as picky anymore. So what if the pizza is not hot enough? So what if the babysitter didn’t put the pajamas in the right drawer? So what if we’re living apart for 5 days of the week?
Adjusting their expectations has allowed them to realize that they don’t have to be so demanding, especially of themselves. That they cannot control everything about their environment. But that they CAN control the way they look at things. Now, I think they’re less stressed and more patient. They recognize what’s more important. Like the QUALITY of the time they have with each other on the weekends not the quantity of time they don’t have during the week. They don’t seem to be so preoccupied with little things anymore because as Hanna said, “We couldn’t sustain that kind of demanding life – it was too draining to try to have everything be so perfect.”
I believe that by adjusting – or maybe by lowering our high expectations, we can learn to live with uncertainty, unpredictability and chaos. Disappointments are bound to happen if we expect things to meet our high standard all the time.
Finally, I also realized that Harry and Hanna are champs! Like many of us, they’re getting through this new world filled with uncertainty, unpredictability and chaos by making a choice not to force the outside to succumb to their high expectations but instead to adjust their own expectations so that they can live a positive life of contentment within the inevitable chaos peppered on top of their pizza.