In this short blog, I share what I have found to be the key to happiness. The choices you can make each day to improve your relationships, alleviate stress, increase productivity, and bring you a little more happiness.
The secret is to choose acceptance and rid yourself of expectation.
One leads to fear, anxiety, stress, resentment, and disappointment; the other leads to peace.
I often catch myself placing expectations of things I think should happen on my partner and children. I see other people doing the same thing. Here some hypothetical examples:
You have always known that your spouse doesn’t see the point in having a tidy house; however, you expect it to be clean and are disappointed when it’s not. You begin to harbour resentment toward them for not fulfilling your expectations.
You expect to have sex three times a week but something gets in the way on a few occasions and you stew in the resentment of not having had the amount of sex you expected.
You expected to keep your hair but you ended up balding.
You expected life to be easier once you received the promotion with the higher salary; but now that you have more money, you have more problems. (Yes, I’m borrowing that line from the Notorious B.I.G.)
You expected to be stationed in Los Angeles for work; instead, you were relocated to the office in Hong Kong.
You expected your child to be in an art program at your alma mater; instead, they’re in a heavy metal band that is currently “finding themselves” on a silence retreat in the Himalayas.
The list goes on and on…
Just about any expectation you have of yourself or another person, place or thing, can leave your head spinning around with repetitive thoughts about what you “wish” was the reality.
Expectation is the poisonous thought that ruins our ability to love and be present.
But if we accept people for who they are (including ourselves), and situations for what they are, we take back our positive power.
Choosing to accept things as they are is not resignation (it’s not defeatist) but, in fact, it is the opposite. Acceptance allows you to take action with a clear mind and open heart based on the reality of the situation. Acceptance re-inserts us into the flow of our life instead of keeping us stuck in repetitive thinking that just wastes mental energy.
People will change when they are ready to change. They will reach out for our guidance and mentorship when they want it. We must choose the relationships we want to keep based on the present reality and accept and love those people in our lives unconditionally.
Much of western society has been built around the idea that life is a series of events that we can, for the most part, control. The path is generally school, college, getting laid, finding (and keeping) a spouse, getting a job, having children, travelling, getting a better job, saving money, investing, retiring, and then dying.
The reality is that life is chaotic, unpredictable and always changing—sometimes for the better and sometimes for the more challenging “growth” experience. Life’s crazy up and downflow will never stop, so choosing acceptance allows us to cast away judgment, to let go of resentment, and to transform our experiences into something of value.
As I wrote in my blog about how to be a Stoic, you have let go of what is, and is not, in your control.
Now, whenever I catch myself expecting something or someone to be different than what is, I just say to myself a few times—“Accept, don’t expect. Accept, don’t expect”—and this usually shifts me back into the flow.
If that doesn’t work, then I try and think of how I can be grateful for, or learn from, the situation or person.
This is not something you’ll master overnight. I still get caught in “expectation funks” all the time. It’s a life-long practice, but well worth it.
Choose Acceptance. Rid yourself of Expectations.
Thanks for reading.