How Changing My Expectations Increased My Happiness
“When one’s expectations are reduced to zero, one really appreciates everything one does have.” – Stephen Hawking
I used to live in a world crowded with expectation.
I had expectations of others, expectations of society, and expectations of myself. Then there were also the expectations others had of me.
Gone are those days! Well almost… let’s just say things have changed drastically.
I describe myself as an optimistic person. I like to be happy, I like to see others happy and I always strive to focus on the brighter side of life. Some might describe that as being a bit of an idealist, but personally I don’t see the point of going through life focusing on the doom and gloom.
So when people share good news with me, I am always happy for them and I always visually or verbally express that happiness for them.
If someone is having a rough time, I’ll always do my best to be empathetic. I’ll look for some practical solutions to help them with their challenges and do my best to cheer them up.
This is my default way of operating in life and so for years I expected other people to be the same. If I achieved something, I expected friends and family to congratulate me. When I was excited about a new opportunity, I expected those closest to me to be excited for me. If I was feeling low, I would expect people in my life to offer me support and empathy. However, as I have grown older, I’ve realised that life doesn’t work that way and that not everyone acts the same way I do.
For years I would feel let down, disappointed and sometimes hurt when someone close to me did not share the joy of my achievements. People I thought would be happy for me expressed little or no reaction to accomplishments that I was proud of. I just didn’t get it. I would think, if the shoe was on the other foot, I would be ecstatic for you, so why do you not feel the same for me?
One day it dawned on me, people have the right to feel and react anyway they choose. If I don’t like it or it upsets me, I too have a choice. I can choose who I share my achievements with. I can choose who I spend my time with and I can choose how I react to their response. In fact, their response is probably not even personal to me.
I have learned that people don’t disappoint you, your expectations of people do.
When you expect something and you don’t get it, of course you are going to feel let down. Expectations set you up for disappointment; however it is human nature to have them. The trick is to avoid becoming attached to your desired outcome.
I now accept that not everyone reacts or behaves in the same way as I do. Instead of investing my energy into working out why they do not appear happy for me, I focus on maintaining my own positive and optimistic outlook on life. Don’t get me wrong, it would still be great if all the people in my life are happy for me when I achieve a meaningful goal, however I no longer expect it of them.
I also recognise how important it is to surround yourself with positive, supportive people. I used to believe those people would be my family and friends, by default, but I now know that is not necessarily the case. Don’t get me wrong, I do have some supportive and encouraging people in my life; however I also had some that were not.
I realise that it is best not to expect a reaction from a person, which is different to their default. Instead, I find that it is better for me to spend more time with people who instinctively express joy for others.
Changing my expectations of others means I can truly enjoy my achievements as I no longer fear a negative response from others.
What expectations do you have that are having a negative effect on your life?
Photo by Gabriel Cabral