‘The Milk Carton Rule’

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22nd May, 2023

Instead of dwelling on what you can’t change, focus on what you can.

‘The Milk Carton rule’ is based on a real-life example which tells the story of a couple where person A often forgets to put the milk carton back in the fridge, which in turn frustrates person B.

A always apologizes, but continues to make the same mistake so, B brings up the problem to their therapist.

T— How often does A forget the milk carton and for how many years?

B — I’ve lost count, thousands of times.

T — Do you base your predictions on what A does or what you want A to do?

B — Based on what A does because A isn’t considerate.

T— But after thousands of times, you’re still surprised at A’s behavior. Shouldn’t you expect A to leave out the milk?

Are you basing your expectation on what you want or what A’s done?

B — I guess on, what I want.

T— Now, how would you feel if you set your expectations based on what A did rather than what you expected A to do?

B — I guess I wouldn’t be so angry. I’d just get two cartons of milk.

In psychology, it is referred to as expectation-reality difference, which is an unreasonable belief and demand that collides with our desire and leaves us stuck in the victim role.

Applying the Milk Carton Rule will help close the gap between expectations and reality and save you from unnecessary frustration of demanding that reality be different.

Our natural response is to demand that the other person change their behavior. But  the reality is that most people won’t change, at least, not when we want them to. Continuing to focus on the other person only causes us continued frustration.

What Makes This Rule So Powerful?

It helps to choose the battles you really need to fight.

It’ll train to move away from the natural response of demanding that the other person should change their behavior when in fact, the reality is that most people won’t change.

It helps to accept reality and the sooner you recognize that, the sooner you can start working on solving the problem.

It helps to resolve conflicts and change focus to problems at hand instead of other people’s attitudes.

It’ll help develop emotional intelligence as a simple shift in mindset can make all the difference in any kind of relationship.

How Can You Apply It?

Change your focus from “How can I get them to change?” to “How do I avoid being affected by this?”

Solve problems by focusing on what you can control.

Don’t think that problem should not exist and instead, yield to it and free up to solve the problem.

Remind yourself that people’s attitudes will upset you in many settings and will not alter.

Recognize the severity of your frustration and utilize it to motivate you to try a new way of fixing the problem.

You may have to accept the reality of problems that you simply cannot solve.

Every day, we are confronted with situations in which reality does not match our expectations.

For instance:

Client or customer who never pays on time or a

Colleague who says one thing and does another or a

Spouse who often forget trivial stuff.

We will not think of a new way to solve problems as long as we believe someone else must behave differently.

Usually lowering our expectations may be exactly what we need!

Close the gap between your expectations and reality, which shall help you work better and live better & stay blessed forever.