First things first, I believe everyone has the inherent ability to be happy if we could just get out of our own way. There’s no secret formula for happiness. Some people aren’t simply destined to a life of misery while others lead a charmed existence.
No, good things happen and bad things happen. Everyone has a choice to make about whether they’re going to let happenstance dictate their moods. In essence, we create our happiness and our despair out of the same stumbling blocks everyone else gets in their path.
Granted, some people seem to have their brains wired for joy while other people mope about through life. There are lots of reasons for this, but I believe there are three primary expectations that stand in the way of our happiness. Let’s learn about them so we can crush ‘em.
You expect too much from yourself
At one point or another, we’ve all been guilty of this. Does this sound familiar: You work long hours to be the best employee you can be, rush home to get the kids to soccer practice or ballet, hurry back home to put together a home-cooked meal, pick the kids up then cram family time, couple time and hobby time into what’s left of the evening before falling, exhausted, into your bed.
Sure…You might not have kids. Maybe you don’t have to deal with working long hours outside of the home. But, you probably push yourself past the limits of what “normal” people believe is healthy.
We all have our own variation of “Superhuman Syndrome.”
The Problem: When you have Superhuman Syndrome, you constantly push yourself to do more, be more, get more than is reasonable. Because you’re always pushing for more, you’re never satisfied with anything. Not your achievements. Not your life. Not your family. Nothing.
The Fix: It’s one thing to strive for more when you aren’t pushing yourself in any direction, but running yourself to the brink of exhaustion doesn’t make a lot of sense either. To strike a balance:
- Calm. Down. The world doesn’t end because you don’t make dinner from scratch one night.
- Embrace your limits. You probably don’t have super powers, so stop acting as though you do.
- Realize when your expectations have gone too far. Expecting yourself to work towards your goals is awesome. Being pissed off at yourself because you didn’t accomplish something overnight…not so much.
You expect too much from others
You know those people in your life who say or do things to get under your skin? You know how they never fail to destroy your good mood? It’s not their fault.
This is the thing we seem to forget…Just because we want someone to stop harping on our wasted potential or crummy choices or even our political ideology doesn’t mean they will stop. This is especially true when you’ve spent years biting your tongue around the person. How can you expect someone to change when they don’t know there’s an issue?
The Problem: You rely on others for your happiness – either because you’re expecting them to supply joy or allowing them to steal it away.
The Fix: Honestly, you have three choices here:
- Alter your expectations
- Discuss the issue
- Remove the person from your life.
It’s up to you to decide what you’re going to do; however, don’t go with option 3 unless it’s both something you can live with and that’s feasible. I mean, can you really cut the obnoxious co-worker out of your life when you sit next to them 40+ hours a week? Probably not.
Also, don’t forget that the easiest thing to do to reclaim your happiness is to change your expectations. It’s called picking your battles. Unless there’s something you feel extremely passionate about forcing someone else to change, it’s just not always worth it to stick to your expectations of other people.
You expect too much from life
This might be my favorite stupid reason not to be happy because it coincides with the issues you didn’t create and can’t control problem bucket. It also makes me start thinking again about that grass being greener quote from a few weeks ago. For those of you who have realistic life expectations, let me explain what I mean.
You see, some of us let the world, universe, life, whatever dictate our happiness. If a war breaks out on the other side of the world, we aren’t happy. If we see social injustice pointed out on the Internet, we aren’t happy.
Basically, we stop being happy once we get any sort of reminder that the world isn’t exactly the way we’d like it to be.
On a less global scale, this could manifest itself in your life as the feeling or belief that life isn’t handing you the opportunities or advantages you feel you deserve. In a way, you’re trying to blame the fact that your life sucks on intangible forces in the world. It might be an easy way to pass the buck, but it’s not terribly productive.
The Problem: You can’t find happiness because life didn’t turn out the way you wanted it to – regardless of whether your own choices shaped the way things are or not.
The Fix: Well, if you’re in the boat who lets social injustice and world issues siphon away your happiness, my only advice is: STOP IT! Sorry to shout, but…really? You can’t be happy because people you don’t know are being crummy to each other? Perhaps a better plan would be to investigate ways you can be the catalyst for change instead of constantly whining that “it isn’t fair.” (I have a secret…That argument doesn’t work once you graduate kindergarten, anyway.)
Now, if the problem is your expectations about your life, that’s a different brand of vodka altogether. In that case:
- Put the vodka down because it was just an expression, not a suggestion
- Determine the root of your life expectations
- Explore whether these are reasonable expectations to have
- Own up to the part you play in creating your destiny
- Search for ways to improve or alter the aspects of your life you don’t like
- Take responsibility for your happiness.
Here’s the main thing about this one, y’all…Life isn’t fair. It can hand some people advantages you’d kill for while making you struggle for everything you get. While I’m all for silver platter service, there’s something to be said for the struggle. When you fight an uphill battle to get what you want, the success is somehow sweeter. In the end, the most successful among us keep their eyes open for any extra help life can give them, but they make their own advantages and they create their own opportunities.
And when it comes to their happiness, I’d wager they expect to shape it into the joy they want as well.
So, how are your expectations of yourself, of others and of life keeping you from being happy?
Photo Credit: Weird Beard, Wikimedia Commons
© 2011, Jen Whitten. All rights reserved. Using content from The Positive Piper without permission will cause the Negativity Beast to attack. BEWARE!