Episode 215 – Throw Away The Script
Steve Shallenberger: To all of our Becoming Your Best listeners and those that are getting ready to just crush it this year and into the new decade, it’s always nice to have some really great tools to help lead you through that, and the Becoming Your Best Planner is ready to go, if you don’t have one already. It’ll help lead you through with your vision, setting clearly actionable goals in the different areas of your life, which will help bring balance. It’s a process that helps you stay focused, day in and day out, on the things that matter most, while still bringing balance and vitality. So, if you don’t have one yet, you can just go to store.becomingyourbest.com. To get 25% off on your planner, just put in the promo code “20planner25”. And here is to a fabulous new year!
Rob Shallenberger: Alright, welcome friends, wherever you’re at in the world, whether it’s morning or afternoon. I’m thankful that you’ve decided to join us on this podcast today, that this can be a friendly discussion, where I can share some things that have been on my mind over the last couple of weeks and have had a big impact in my life, in really giving me some emotional freedom. And maybe you’ll be able to relate to this – I’ll see if I can articulate it well enough – but my hope is that this can be a powerful podcast that can really make a difference in your life.
Before we jump into this, some of you may already be aware, and for those who aren’t, we are releasing our new book, “Conquer Anxiety”, in the middle of March, so it’s coming up pretty quick here. We’re excited about this book because this is going to help thousands of people. If you’ve not felt anxiety in your life, you surely know someone who has experienced this and how debilitating and what a vice-like grip anxiety can be in someone’s life. And so, we’re co-writing this book with a Brigham Young University professor, named Jon Skidmore. And again, we’re excited because we know that this is going to impact and really benefit a lot of lives. I’ve already applied a lot of the tools and exercises that I’ve been learning as we’ve written the book – I’ve done this with my family, and it’s been just awesome to watch. So, for those who want to pre-order the book, we will have it in our hands middle of March, and you should be able to get it in your hands by the end of March. For those who pre-order, you’ll be guaranteed to get a copy. And if you’ll go to anxietyconquer.com, that’s where you can pre-order the book to guarantee that you’ll get one of the first ones. So, again, we’re pretty excited about this! We know it’s going to have a huge impact on anyone who’s experienced anxiety, and we’re excited to get your feedback and get it into your hands.
So, let’s jump into this podcast with that under our belt. This is going to be focused on helping us, specifically, with our relationships, and especially relationships within our family. Now, I’ve been a part of several conversations over the last few weeks – they’ve been focused on expectations and people getting frustrated – and as I looked at my own life, I realized that I’ve had some of these same frustrations many different times, and I suspect most people listening right now will be able to relate that you’ve had these types of frustrating experiences in your relationships. So, what I’m going to focus on here is this concept now that I just call in forward, “Throw Away the Script”.
Now, I hope I can do this due diligence in explaining this – you know, some things are very easy to explain; others are a lot more intricate, complex, and this is one of those that lean towards the intricate, the complex, so I hope I can do this justice in explaining what I mean when I say, “Throw Away the Script”. What I’m really saying here is that we don’t want to make our happiness, our peace, contingent on the actions of others. So, let me see if I can explain this in a way that might make sense. There’s a difference between expectations and having a script. Expectations are great, as long as our happiness doesn’t depend on whether someone lives up to those expectations or not. Think about this! I mean, expectations are a form of goals in a way, which, if you know and are familiar with Becoming Your Best, you know that we’re huge advocates of goal setting. A person is 90% more likely to accomplish something when they have a clearly written goal. So, in a sense, expectations are a form of goals. So I want to be clear in what I’m saying here: research has shown that high expectations lead to higher performance. However, if our happiness is based on whether or not an experience or a person lives up to those expectations, that’s where the problem can come in, and we’re setting ourselves up potentially for a lot of emotional let downs. So the question is, do we have this script of exactly how we think a person should act or live or do something in a particular scenario? And if we do, and they don’t live up to that script, are we emotionally distraught from it? Are we upset? Are we angry? If so, then this could be a podcast that could really liberate and help you. It has helped me – I know that I’ve experienced this – and I think most people can relate.
So, let me share two experiences – and this may help illustrate the idea. And with what I’m explaining here, I know there are exceptions; I know there are places where you could play devil’s advocate to a particular scenario, I get it. But I hope that what we’re focusing on here is the big picture concept of throwing away the script. And let me see if I can illustrate this in maybe two stories. The first one is a newly-married couple. Now, for those of us that have been there, that is a fun, blissful time in life, the world’s your oyster, so to speak. But, there can be some challenges, too, in there. You’re bringing two lives that were independent, together. And this newly-married couple went to look for a car one day. Now, the husband had this Hallmark movie-type expectation planned out in his mind, of what this experience would be like. In other words, he had a script exactly how things should – now, that’s the key word here – he had a script, in his mind, of how things SHOULD go: he would take his wife to dinner, they would have a great conversation, and then they would go look at getting a new family car. He had it all planned out in his mind of how this evening would go. Now, he envisioned a certain type of car, and he thought, for sure, that they would have this amazing date that would culminate with this new car that he had envisioned, and they would both just love it. Can you already see where this is going?
Well, this whole experience quickly went downhill. They went to dinner and things didn’t quite line up with his script of how things should go there at dinner. And they made it through dinner okay, it was fine, but it’s starting to come apart here at the seams. When it came to the car, they were on their way, they were driving, and they started talking about the car. It was clear that what they wanted was totally opposite of each other: she wanted a small red car that was like a hybrid – something that would get around, and save gas, and be economical. On the flip side, he wanted this black Jeep they could use to drive through the mountains and see the scenery. And so, you could see polar opposites of what they wanted. Now, things are already coming apart here at the seams, the train is going off the tracks. Both of these people have strong personalities, and so, what happened, is a fairly heated argument ensued. And this wasn’t a couple that argued often, so this was not the norm, but this was really a big disagreement and one of their first big disagreements. So they ended up not even looking at the car – by the time they got to the dealership, they’ve thrown this experience completely out the window. It was already gone. The love, at the moment, was no longer there. And so, they drove home in total silence.
Funny now, looking back on it; not so funny if you’re sitting there in the moment. They ended up giving each other the cold shoulder – which I think maybe we can relate, too – for the next couple of days. And then, finally, they reconciled themselves and they went on and ultimately worked this out. But the point is, while there are several issues that contributed to this breakdown, one of the primary ones that kicked it all off was the script that he had in his mind, where he had every detail planned out of how he thought this was going to go – hence why I’m using the word, here, script. He had this scripted out. And once the reality deviated from that script, he lost it. He lost his cool, he got angry, he got upset, he got emotional. He tied his emotions and happiness into how he thought something should go. But, in many cases, it was not exclusively in his control. So maybe you can relate to that example, maybe not.
Let me share one more from my life, as I’ve been thinking about this over the last two weeks. And I will tell you, if I’m doing a decent job explaining this, then you’ll sense how powerful and liberating emotionally this could be when we can drop the script for other people. Now, I’m not talking about a situation where someone’s life is on the line, right? We don’t want someone to get hurt or die, but people are free to live their lives and we don’t want to tie our emotions, our happiness into whether they’re following our prescribed script for them or not.
I love our kids! We have four kids: Robbie’s 18, and then we have three daughters. And Robbie is stellar! I mean, I love him! He’s going to be such a great influencer for good – he’s played in Carnegie Hall, he plays football, skis, runs tracks – he’s just a great kid! I have pretty high expectations in our family, and again, I think expectations are great. I’ll come back to that several times, here. But what I want to share with you is this story of what’s happened over the last few weeks. And I’ve applied this – what we’re talking about here now, throwing away the script – and it’s been amazing because it has now freed me and liberated me to not be tied to whether he follows my script or not, which in the past, my happiness, in many cases was tied to, “Are the kids doing what I’m expecting them to do?” So, let me walk you through a little bit more detail of how this has played out over the last few weeks.
So, Robbie, in our particular church, is associated with this youth group, and he’s a leader in the youth group – he’s one of the oldest ones. Now, my script for him was that he would meet every other week with the other young men leaders. And part of that script was that he would be on time or early, to lead by example. Now, I’m 44 and he’s 18, so we’re talking about two very different people here. He’s great in so many ways, but he’s got a lot, still, to learn and he’s developing. So, my script, I’m setting, obviously, very high expectations here: meet every other week, be on time or early, do other things that might help, such as develop an agenda, send out a text to the other people who should be in that meeting, etc. So, you can see in my mind, here’s all these things he should be doing if he wants to be a great leader amongst those other young men. All of those things are legitimate expectations for someone in a leadership role. However, the problem is that I had developed a script, and now my happiness was tied to that script. My happiness, now, was contingent or based upon whether or not he followed my script and did those things. So what happened? Well, he didn’t send out the texts, he didn’t develop an agenda; when he was going to the meeting, he was going to be two minutes late – and all of that didn’t line up with my script. And so, what happened? I was frustrated. I mean, I was even angry to a point there. I was like, “Robbie, you could have totally done this stuff in advance”, but he didn’t, and so, I got fired up because he wasn’t doing what I felt he should be doing. Notice that keyword again – SHOULD.
When we envision in our minds what we think others should be doing, that’s a good indicator that we have a script for that person. And, in this case, Robbie didn’t follow my script. Now, in the end, him not following my script caused me to be upset and frustrated. My happiness was contingent on his actions or the actions of another person. And the truth is, if I really look at that situation, none of those things should have impacted my happiness. And the truth is, life is a great teacher! Just in and of itself, life is a great teacher, and there are consequences for certain actions. He knew the expectations – I had set those clearly. And there is nothing wrong with that, it was good. It’s good to mentor and teach, in my opinion. But now, whether he would do that or not, that’s his choice. To not send out the text, to not develop an agenda, that’s his choice. And if there are consequences, especially when they’re not life-threatening – that’s key – when they’re not life-threatening, like in this scenario, he can learn from those consequences. If half the people who were supposed to be there didn’t show up at that meeting because he didn’t send out the text, that’s a consequence – it’s not life-threatening and it’s great to learn that at his age.
The point is that I don’t need to make my happiness a function of whether he followed the script that I had for him, or not. And this has been liberating, because now, in our home, when something comes up, I ask myself, “Is that my script? Why am I starting to get a little emotionally upset here? Why am I starting to get riled up?” And most of the time, it’s because I have this script for that person, and they’re not following it. And as soon as I say, “You know what? It’s okay! It’s their choice, it’s their life. They’ll have some consequences and they’re not life-threatening, so let’s let them learn” I just feel this liberation, this emotional freedom!
So my point here is – and I’ll wrap this up; I mentioned this is going to be a short podcast – it’s okay to have expectations. It’s fabulous to set goals! We just can’t attach our happiness to whether or not someone else follows that script. Now, look, I’m sure there are people listening to this who could bring up exceptions. I get it! There are exceptions to this. There’s others who could say, “Well, what about this situation?” Yes, I’m confident that there are those types of exceptions. If someone wants to play devil’s advocate, you could play devil’s advocate successfully with this. I get that there are other situations. My whole point in sharing this is that we need to liberate ourselves emotionally by not making our happiness dependent on what someone else should be doing, from our perspective and opinion, whether they’re following our script for them or not. Might it be the wrong thing that they’re doing by not following the script? It may be. But the question is, are we attaching our happiness to that? Imagine the emotional freedom that this can bring to your life. It has to mine! Set expectations? Yes! Then, let the other person live and use their agency.
And just like I mentioned several times, the last two weeks specifically, I’ve been thinking a lot about this. With my wife, I’ll ask myself first, “Is this my own internal script? Is this life-threatening if she doesn’t do exactly what I’m envisioning?” The same with my kids, “Is this my own internal made-up script for them?” If so, let it go. I can remind them, I can even bring it up. But then, I let the experience and the consequences follow as long as they’re not life-threatening. And now I’m freed up, emotionally, because my happiness is no longer based on whether they follow that script or not. So, I hope this has made sense. Again, I know there’s different scenarios where this may or may not apply, but I think we’ve at least covered the big picture concept of what it means to throw away our script. Let’s not be so detailed in our expectations of someone else, that if they don’t follow that, we’ve now lost our emotional freedom. And this is not necessarily an easy thing to explain. Like I said, there are situations where it may not apply, but the big picture is that we don’t tie our emotions and happiness to someone else, whether they follow our script. It should liberate us emotionally. And think of all the other things we can do with that energy when it’s used in other places, when we’re not wrapped up in whether or not someone else is living our life.
The truth is, if we really look at the people around us, there are many, many, many divorces that have come from this exact thing that we’re talking about, where one partner or a person has this internal script for the other person, and they don’t follow it. That happens enough, and we don’t have the emotional strength or intelligence to deal with it. And so, what happens? Eventually, it has the potential to break or crack. So, this should really liberate us emotionally, to let go of those scripts, throw them away, get rid of them. As long as it’s not life-threatening, as long as it’s not going to cost you a ton of money or something else, throw those scripts away and let’s use that energy and emotion for something else!
So, I hope this has been beneficial. Thank you so much for joining us on this podcast. As you know, a new podcast every week. Sometimes these are podcasts where we can share thoughts and ideas, just like we did on this one; other times, we’ll bring on some world-class people who are amazing in their different arena or industry, to share their insights as well. So we hope these add value and I will throw out one invitation. If there’s a topic or something that you would like to hear specifics about, or where we could go find a guest on that topic, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll go find a guest who’s an expert in that field, and we’ll do a podcast on that topic if it can apply to all listeners. So, again, thank you, and we hope you have a fabulous day, wherever you’re at in the world!