Expectations rarely run higher than they do at Christmas. From what to give to what to serve to the pressure to host well, expectations hover just beyond reach of achievability for most of us.

A few years ago I was listening to a speaker who was talking about something I can’t remember anymore, but I do remember this.  As a complete aside, he stopped his main talk and said to the audience: “You know what the secret to happiness is, right?”  — Pause.  —  “Low expectations.”

It’s all I remember about his talk.  It’s so simple, a bit disappointing, and so true.

The only reason you and I ever get disappointed is because we expected something better.  Expect nothing . . . you’ll never be disappointed.

Lowering our expectations could make Christmas so much more enjoyable.  Expecting the perfect gift from your spouse? Drop the expectation. Then you’d be happy with anything she gets you. Worried about Christmas dinner? Prepare well, but lose the picture of the perfect family dinner from your mind . . . then you’ll be happy even when the turkey you labored over for hours is overcooked and your third cousin twice removed is more than happy to point it out.

Lowering expectations also increases gratitude. In fact, I think it’s the key to gratitude. If your expectations are chronically high, you will never be thankful for anything that doesn’t exceed them. Gratitude is easy to experience when you realize that spiritually, we are in a position to demand nothing . . . that we’ve received is a gift from a Savior who is merciful . . . that what we’ve received is far greater than what we have deserved.

Lowered expectations might be a great conversation subject with your kids this week.  If their gift list this year consists of a long list of specific items with size, brand, design, and color all pre-determined, it’s going to be hard to be grateful Christmas morning. Why? Because anything short of their exact expectation is disappointment.  You might even want to have the conversation with your spouse. We can place unrealistic expectations on each other about so many things.

Why not think about lowering your expectations this week? You’ll take yourself less seriously, enjoy others more, and be profoundly grateful for things you might have even resented otherwise.

Start the conversation about expectations for yourself and with your family today.

In the meantime, what have you learned about expectations, gratitude and happiness?