This is part two of my series called Finding Your Happy. See part one here.
Do you often feel dissatisfied with your life? Do you feel stuck and disappointed when you think about what you’re doing and what your friends are doing? Do you feel left behind? Last week in Finding Your Happy I wrote about some ways that you can feel more satisfied with your life and find your true happiness. I can tell you first hand, that it is not an easy road, but I am here to help give you just a bit of direction. What you do with this information is up to you.
For the last few month, I’ve been really frustrated. I constantly had that feeling of being uncomfortable in my own skin, like when you sit down and just can’t find a comfortable position. I was always agitated, I didn’t want to watch TV at night like I had been, but I couldn’t think of something else to do instead. I wanted my life to be more exciting, to be going somewhere. I felt it wasn’t, and that made me…grumpy. I expected that because I was grumpy, my friends were grumpy with me. I was annoyed in situations where I knew people were out socializing, but I hadn’t been invited, even though they had told me about the event. I was avoiding the hobbies that brought me joy, like cooking, because they weren’t bringing me excitement. I had all of these expectations about how I should be feeling, what I should be doing, how others should be treating me and was constantly agitated that my life wasn’t meeting these expectations. I spent hours on Pinterest and searching the web for motivational tips, tools to “find your purpose”, and taking personality quizzes with the hopes of finding something that would spur change.
Maybe it worked, I mean I am happier now, but I think what changed was my frame of mine. I realized that despite my desires for how I wanted my life to look, I had not made any changes in what I was doing, and thus, couldn’t expect the changes to actually occur. I realized that I had to let go of the expectations I held for other people, the expectations I held for things out of my control, and the expectation I held for where my life should be by now. Until I did this, I could never find that sense of daily satisfaction and begin to make and recognize real, sustainable change.
When I was beginning my journey to find my happy, I found myself extremely frustrated because I wasn’t making the progress I wanted. I felt as if I was lost in the woods, passing the same trees and getting nowhere, or caught in a riptide that I couldn’t escape from. It was awful. I know I am not the only one that has felt this way. It took me a while, but I realized a large part of why I was feeling so far behind was because I expected to be farther ahead. I felt like I should know where I wanted to be in life already, and that I should be well on my way to getting there. And, in part, I did and I was. I knew I wanted to have a solid relationship with an excellent spouse who was a partner not just a title. I worked very hard to build that relationship and continue to work hard to maintain and support that relationship. But, and this is very important, I only have it because I knew that I wanted it and I worked for it.
I have always struggled with knowing what I want to do in life. I know that I want to make a difference in people’s lives, but I’ve never been able to nail down what that looks like to me. I’m still not 100% sure I know how I want to accomplish that goal, but I have ideas and I am working to flesh them out on a daily basis. Reaching your goals takes effort, and you can not begin to make those efforts until you have a direction to work in. Often enough, even having and executing a plan isn’t enough to have a happily ever after, because lives and circumstances change. Having a goal and having an expectation are different things. A goal is something you work towards, recognizing that it may be different when you achieve it, and it isn’t really the end just another step along the path. It is a motivator.
Expectations tend to be demotivators. If you reach your goal, and you don’t feel the way your were expecting, or your life isn’t going according to your expectations you’re less likely to push through to your next goal. Particularly if those expectations didn’t seem outrageous to you. I know so many people who expected their lives to be in a different place than they are currently. The ones who less frequently express disappointment were those who when you ask them where they were expecting to be can’t give you a definitive answer. Their answers tend to be feelings as opposed to tangible things like, satisfied or happy. The others, those who are disappointed, are comparing their progress to that of their friends, coworkers or family members, and not taking into consideration that every path is unique and runs at its own pace.
In order to prevent this form of disappointment we need to stop comparing the beginning of our story to the middle or denouement of someone else’s. The problem isn’t that you have no idea what you want to be doing, because you will find that along the way, its that you expect you should already know and be doing it. It’s like telling yourself you’ve already failed when you’ve barely taken a few steps, You haven’t even given yourself a chance yet. Focus more on feeling satisfied, feeling happy and defining what that means to you and what that looks like to you, and you will be able to find these aspects in your life much more easily.
Another overwhelming source of frustration and disappointment I’m seeing in my age group and older generations as well is the sense of isolation and let down we get from other people. So often I will hear stories of friends who are mad at each other because of a miscommunication in a text message, or someone not showing up to hangout when they were expected, or S.O.’s not calling or showing up on nights when they are expected. Technology is an amazing thing. The fact that we can communicate with people on the other side of the planet with the click of a button is awe-inspiring. However, it has also created a huge deficiency in our ability to communicate with each other. We no longer have the advantages of body language to help determine the subtext of a message, and with emojis and poor grammar clouding the communication systems further, it’s a surprise anyone is getting along at all.
My husband sucks at responding to text messages. He hardly looks at his phone while he is working, and if he does it’s to play a game while on break, not to respond to me throughout the day. For a while, this caused quite a few issues, because I was accustomed to receiving responses to my text messages quickly and consistently. I had come to expect the same from him, even though this had never been a habit of his. I had to readjust my expectations (read lose the expectation entirely), which took quite sometime and quite a few conversations where I tried and failed to change his habits instead of my own.
His reasoning was also an important eye opener for me. He had noticed that when he responded to a text by text instead of just calling, I was more like to infer a negative connotation, so he would always just call to respond instead, or talk to me about the comment when we met in person. As I thought this over I realized that he was right. Not only does talking on the phone or in person allow for more forms of communication (ie: tone of voice, body language and context clues) and thus better communication, but also its quicker and more intimate. Now, when I notice I’m adding in context to a text conversation, I’ll call the person I’m speaking with to avoid miscommunication, or if I need a quick response. This way I can do my part to set appropriate expectations, and prevent frustrations.
The most important thing to realize when you’re dealing with other people is that you can not expect someone to change for you, it’s not going to happen and expecting as much will only ever bring you disappointment and frustration. You can only ever change yourself and your own actions. Along these lines, do not enter into a relationship, marriage or a job expecting that they or it will change to fit your expectations: it won’t ever happen.
You can only change yourself, your perception, and the way you manage your expectations. You do this by communicating clearly what you’re expectations are and where your boundaries lay. If you find yourself disappointed by an interaction or disappointment, make sure to voice that disappointment in a clear and patient way. Strangers and family a like will do what they can to avoid conflicts moving forward as long as they have a direct course of action to take. Show them the path of least resistance for you, and most likely they will take it. But you can’t expect them to change their normal course of action simply to make your life easier. You also have to understand why they’re choosing certain actions that bother you. Perhaps you want your partner home at a certain time every night so that you can have dinner together, but they always work past that time. They are unlikely to change their schedule to fit this expectation, so instead you will have to change your time frame or change the expectation entirely. All relationships thrive on compromise and communication.
The last set of expectations I want to discuss is a strong blockade to finding future happiness. It’s the expectation of being uncomfortable or disliking something. I don’t know how many times I have skipped out on doing something that I would have probably enjoyed, because I didn’t think I would like it at the time. We all do this all the time, and I notice it most when I’m sitting at home on my couch wish I were out doing something with my time. I live in a city that has dozens of opportunities every day. I choose to not partake in them because I expect that I won’t enjoy the outcomes, but I will never know if I don’t try. You have to set aside your expectations that you won’t like something, or that other people will think you’re silly, or that you won’t be good at something in order to grow.
When you close yourself off to new experiences you prevent yourself from finding your truest self. Part of the challenge of finding your happy is reconnecting with things you enjoy. If you expect to dislike something before you try it, how likely are you to try it? You could be missing out on something great. Now this doesn’t mean you need to have F.O.M.O. (fear of missing out), but You should take time to seek new experiences. You should also let go of the concern that you won’t be good at something, everyone has to start somewhere and it respectable to stumble while you try new things. People are inherently self-centered, and so are more concerned with their own success than they are with watching how poorly you’re doing.
I’m not trying to say that knowing what to expect in life is a bad thing, but maintaining realistic expectations is important.There is comfort in knowing what to expect on the other side of the door. You wouldn’t expect to come home to a perfectly clean home with a hot dinner ready and waiting if you, being the last to leave, know the house was in disarray when you left and are the first to return home for the day. However, you can expect that your belonging are where you left them. You wouldn’t expect that if you left your home looking nice, you would come home to disarray. Expecting the impossible or setting expectations without a reasonable way of accomplishing them is setting yourself up for disappointment.
All in all, by removing negative expectations and living life with an optimistic outlook (easier said than done I know), we will be able to move our lives forward and achieve our goals. We can build and support strong relationships and support systems that will help on these paths, and we may even find a new hobby or better yet, our purpose.
This week I challenge you to be extremely clear and direct, even blunt in every communication, even just for a day, and see how you feel. How many times were you frustrated or disappointed by someone else’s actions? Did you feel more or less stressed as your week went by? Did this feel sustainable for you? Did abandoning your expectations lead you into trying something new or reconnecting with a previous passion? Let me know in the comments, I’m very excited to hear about your progress!