Over the rivers and through the woods, to failure we go – or so it seems when we measure expectations and happiness. I mean no negative slam – but rather an observation.
For years, I’m watching, reading, and consulting with people from all walks of life and around the globe.
Happiness appears as allusive and as sought after as the fountain of youth.
Our expectations are the primary clues to where happiness is hiding. “I’ll be happy when I get that raise.”
I certainly see a lot of truth here – we’d be zombies without accomplishments to make us happy? The question is, are our expectations growing bigger and bigger each year, while happiness is not embraced?
Let’s think back to the dream when it all started, “I’ll be happy when I finish high school – then college.” – “I’ll be happy when I land that job.” – “I’ll be happier when I have a better job.” – a better house – more money – a partner – a better partner – more this – better that – in an infinite circle, hence, happiness never catches up with the expectations.
If happiness is on the other side of success, our brain never finds it. It’s not quite as funny as a dog chasing its tail – but the counterintuitive pattern is pretty lame.
It’s like standing at the ocean looking for water while waves slap around our feet. Where’s the water!
If I work harder, I’ll be more successful. When I’m more successful, I’ll be happier. It so much as undermines our accomplishments, our parenting styles, managing styles, natural growth process, and so on. Why? Because we are continuing to change our goals.
We’ve pushed expectations over the cognitive horizon as a nation when we relate success to happiness. But wait there is more! Have we formed an addiction to negative things in our efforts to improve? It’s ironic with all the how-to-be happy mantras flying at us daily, that happiness is taken down with one big bad negative, must-have-more-happiness thought. IRONIC!
So, where do we stop chasing the MORE? At what point of our success do we say enough? When can we say, I’m good. No need to work harder?
I know you want to give me a look -about now. Am I contradicting myself? Hang in there and read to the end. I think you’ll get what I’m saying.
We suffer the confines of infinite exhaustion when we change the happiness goal. The continual chase for happiness leaves us never feeling good. We are never enough. We need more and more fulfillment. No wonder we crave the feel-good mantras every day.
And what about the addiction to negative things?
Addiction to negative things happens when a part of our brain breaks down. Like our bodies – if we become diabetic – it affects many areas of our body and the same in our brain. When our happiness can’t find the finish line it expects, it breaks down and worries – how can it fix this or that? Focus consumes the brain – worry and stress rise – and for what? The idea that we need and want more to be happier is kind of like our expectations are bulling our happiness and success into feuding.
We must reverse the formula for happiness. Otherwise, we remain in a continual negative state that shuts down our potential.
We don’t need to put aside our expectations to grow, advance, or succeed. Hell, if you want to be the next president of the United States – you can’t stop. You shouldn’t, lest you fail.
What do we tell an Olympic hopeful; don’t expect too much? Haha.
We cheer when we succeed because it is happy and impressive. We push ourselves further and further. Great job! But we must put aside the idea that we need more success to be happy, yet to seek more is okay, as long as we handle it correctly.
When we embrace happiness, success grows on it’s own.
It’s easy, we do it by being grateful.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not talking about being grateful as an excuse to fuck over your reality, leaving you to be that Olympic failure. If you’re in an abusive job – don’t be grateful – that’s messed up! Be grateful it’s paying you- and get out. If you’re a diabetic – be grateful that we live in a world that can help – but work hard to improve your health. Be grateful that you’re an intelligent human being who knows that being grateful for being shit on is not the idea. I think you get it.
I was terrified when I lost my job!
Personal story of mine: I lost a good-paying position that I needed desperately, but I was grateful. In this case, was it wise to be grateful? Yes, it was. The abusive environment I was in was worse than the alternative – I was terrified about losing the job – but I was terrorized working the job. How did I handle things? Well, being grateful for the right reason, prevented anger, or withdrawing to some pity party. I handled it well around moments of stress, sleepless nights at times, but overall, the grateful feelings to be out of hell, balanced the reality.
Ultimately, I fought for what I truly wanted – and got it.
It’s not hard to teach your brain to allow happiness to catch up with success and keep going.
Did you know a brain on positive will fight most of the battles for you?
Our brains are made to function in positive energy? When positive thinking takes place, the brain experiences what some call a happiness advantage where intelligence rises, stress falls, creativity soars, and energy levels are higher and last longer. Now, the brain automatically solves problems.
I experienced this when I lost my job – my creativity went through the roof. My energy went from a 2 to a 15, 10 being the highest! My intellectual side kicked in. I hadn’t seen it for months being in a job that was no less than torture. With my intelligence turned on full blast, I found my way. Yes, I would have found my success again even if I’d have been a wounded soul who blamed the world, and hid in my sadness and worry, but it would have taken longer, and most likely I’d have gone right back into what paid well but tortured me again!
This is what happens when we become desperate in a fight or flight mode – we suddenly have no choice. We then try harder. “I can do it! I will do it! I’m doing it!” And it works. So, yell at me if you like. I’m not a self-help guru – but I do know when self-help kicks in, with the right balance, it’s a force we cannot stop! For when we truly believe in ourselves, we make history.
So, my friends, keep it positive by feeding yourself a healthy dose of gratitude every day. But don’t be naive, you must retrain that brain to confront expectations, success and embrace happiness.
Write it down, live it- in your mind, then live it – in your life.
- For twenty-one days, write down three things you’re grateful for with no repeats.
- No, “I’m thankful for my shoelaces, or these potatoes, or I’m thankful for my wife.” That’s ambiguous. Describe why you are grateful, what did she do?
- Find things in your past and present to be grateful for. “I’m thankful for that vacation when I was ten-years-old, and my dad taught me to fish. I know it’s gooey, but so cool at the same time!
- And don’t get arrogant about how easy it will be. It’s torturous to write three things down for twenty-one days without repeating. It becomes boring quickly. And it’s hard to recall what you’re grateful for. Plus, if you miss more than one day – you must start over. So buck up.
After the initial twenty-one days, you will have trained your brain to think differently – but it’s still new; therefore, you will need to be grateful and exercise the new brain muscle a whole year, or you’ll go right back to the ungrateful couch potato.
For the year, here are a few ideas to continue working the brain muscle.
Find support, form a sisterhood.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Yep, that gunky, thick-goopy sappy writing.
- Teach someone else the 21-day exercise.
- Remember the hard times that you’ve experienced, and how grateful you are to have gotten through them.
- If you pray – pray about it. If you meditate – meditate.
- Utilize the meditation technique known as Naikan. It reflects on three questions: “What have I received from _?”, “What have I given to _?”, and “What troubles and difficulty have I caused?”
- Pause and notice things around you: Smell- Sight- Touch. The smells of fresh oranges, the soft texture of satin sheets, or velvety feel of your cashmere sweater. How amazing things look, a bird – flower – rain on dry ground -sunshine on wet grass. You get the drift.
- Write poems. If you’re terrible at it – write at least one. Roses are red, violets are blue, I don’t give a ____, but really I do!
- Find something good in that person that drives you nuts. If bob spits on me one more time while he’s talking, I’llllllllll – Hey, Bob is a great guy, he’s there when I need him.
Being grateful allows you to embrace happiness while setting more expectations in a natural balance.
- If you get sick of being grateful – don’t give up. Put up sticky notes for yourself – then rip them off and laugh.
- Be realistic.
Being grateful won’t bring a rainbow of Irish gold. It will bring something even better. You – one step closer to who you really are!
Keep your expectations high, live your dreams, fight for them, but remember your best friend, happiness, should be driving your car, not chasing it!
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