oh my, it’s summertime!
Are you ready for days of slip ‘n’ slides, lemonade stands, and lazy days at the pool with a good book?!
Guess what? That may not happen. I mean, really, is there such a thing as a lazy day at the pool with kids?
And, yes, you may set up the slip ‘n’ slide, but the hose won’t reach all the way to the slope in your yard so you’ll have to make a trip to the store for a new one. Once you get back from the store, and find a way to connect it you’ll learn that your yard has more rocks in it than you had realized and your 6 year old ends up with a bloody knee after her third trip down the slide. She is now traumatized by the event and won’t go near the slip ‘n’ slide again.
If you set up your summer expecting that X-activity will “make” your summer, you may be sitting at the end of summer feeling as if you’ve failed.
expectations vs. intentions
We usually set expectations for our summer (ie, Summer Bucket List) rather than intentions. More over, we look at these summer activities - family beach trip, lazy summer evenings on the porch with a drink in hand, smores in the backyard with giggling kids catching fireflys - and expect it to bring us the emotion we seek (joy, glee, calmness & contentment), rather than seeking the emotion irrelevant of the activity taking place. Because, really, it’s the emotion we seek.
So why are we planning activities rather than planning emotions?
The definition of an expectation is: a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future. Whereas the definition of an intention is: a thing intended; an aim or plan.
Stated another way, an expectation is passive, it’s what you believe you’ll receive from an event, and an intention is active, it’s the emotion/action you plan to bring to an event.
Let’s say you are heading to a summer picnic with friends.
Expectation: I am going to have so much fun at this picnic because it will be day day full of playing yard games, everyone will rave over my fruit salad, and I can relax in the pool while telling stories, laughing and catching up with old friends.
You are a passenger in this storyline and have no real control over whether or not it comes to pass. If there are no yard games (who plans a picnic without yard games?), no one raves over your fruit salad, and your friends don’t want to get in the pool because it’s full of 13 year olds splashing around… you’ll probably leave the picnic disappointed with how the day turned out.
But if you begin your day with intentions (what you plan to bring to the party) rather than expectations (what you believe you’ll get out of the party), your day could be saved.
Intention: I am headed to the picnic full of happiness and excited to enjoy the company of life long friends today. This allows for most anything to happen and you’ll still walk away from the picnic happy that you were able to spend the day with old friends.
setting intentions for the summer
Let’s take this framework and apply it to our summer.
#1 Take stock of what you have on your plate this summer.
Let’s begin by being realistic about what you already have planned for the summer. Work commitments, travel, household projects, camps or summer sports for the kids, etc. This should be a list of everything that is already on the books, not a list of what you hope to squeeze onto that summer bucket list. We can have a tendency to underestimate the things we need to do and overestimate the space we have available to do things things we want to do, so let’s keep it simple by only including those must-do commitments.
It can be very helpful to put all this down on paper, in a calendar format, so you can see which weeks are filled to the brim and which weeks are open for some lazy summer days.
#2 Visualize how you want to feel this summer.
Now that we have the logistical stuff down on paper, let’s set that aside for a moment and get into a different headspace. Shake off any feelings you may have of overwhelm or the hard corners of technical planning. Breathe deep and ask yourself… What do you want to feel this summer? This can be more than one emotion - the best stories come with highs and lows, peaks and valleys, fast and slow.
Create a list of words that evoke these feelings.
Be sure to use positive words like “calm” instead of “not stressed”, “spontaneous” instead of “not overly planned out”. The power of positivity is real. Our brains cling to the words we use, even if there is a negative before that word. So, if you use “not stressed” your brain will hold on to the word “stressed”. I’m sure you can even feel it just by reading the negative words I just used in this paragraph. So, let’s keep it positive. Calm, Joyful, Adventurous, Relaxing, Lazy, Spirited, Gleeful, Spontaneous, Intriguing, Content, etc.
# 3 Link these feelings to activities/events that are already on your plate
One of my favorite quotes by Oprah, and I actually think it was from one of her guests, is “You are responsible for the emotion you bring into this room”. This is so clear when you think of attending a party. Just think of a time when you were looking forward to a party. You were getting ready with the music pumping, laughter throughout the house, and a smile on your face. Now think of a time when you did not want to go out. You begrudgingly got dressed, waited on the couch for others to be ready, and left the house with a sigh. In both these situations it doesn’t matter how bumping that party is, you’ve already determined what type of night you are going to have by the emotion you brought to it.
Let’s take that truth and make it work for us!
Take a look at your list of events for the summer (created in step one) and the list of feelings/emotions (created in step two). It’s now time to link the two.
If one of the emotions you are seeking is adventurous - what event or activity can you link this to? Could you view your travel commitment through an adventurous eye? If this is solo, work-related travel, you could take a lunch hour to walk the city and stumble across a new shop or restaurant. You could give yourself a $20 a day, cash-only budget and find creative ways to spend it. If it’s a family trip, you could let your child be in charge of directions when walking home from dinner or find a new walking trail to explore early one morning. There are so many ways you could add ‘adventure’ to your trip without adding more to your plate!
#4 Possibly add a handful of activities to your summer schedule
We all have a nostalgic idea of what summer should be filled with and I don’t want to begrudge you the joys of these summer activities. But, as you add these activities to your plan, be sure you are thinking of what emotion you want to bring to the activity and let that be the reward rather than a false expectation.
Also, take note of some of those softer emotions and outcomes you are seeking. Do you have words such as calm, relaxed, and content in your brainstorming list? These come with ease and space built into your schedule. These come with a slow Saturday morning with no where to be and nothing to do. These come up spontaneously, without planning. The moment you plan that *this Saturday* will be relaxing is the moment your kids will wake you up fighting over whether they will build a fort or bake brownies at 7am in the morning. This is why I say “possibly” add a handful of activities to your summer schedule.
Most of us could use a few months with fewer expectations and more intentions.