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Happiness Is Going from Expectations to Appreciation

Happiness Is Going from Expectations to Appreciation

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By: Mary Hoofnagle

Let’s be honest; the world rarely lives up to our expectations. Very early in life we start dreaming of what we expect our lives to be. This vision becomes our pursuit of happiness. The implication there is that without achieving that exact picture, happiness is elusive or even impossible.

Think back to that first dance in middle school.

I had a crush on James, and although I had never spoken to him at school, I knew that tonight would be the night that he would confess that he’s had his eye on me too. He would ask me to dance and we would gaze into each other’s eyes as if no one else existed in the school gym. Actual events proved to be a little less romantic.

As I made my grand entrance in my first pair of heels, I nearly tripped all the way down the stairs into the gym. When I finally stood next to my crush, I spilled a coke all over his shirt. As an added bonus, I walked away with a matching stain on my dress to serve as a constant reminder of my humiliation. The only person I did get to dance with was guy who used to make up songs with my name in them and sing all through math class because he knew how much it irritated me. I left feeling alone, rejected, embarrassed, and disappointed. As a result, I handled the next dance a little differently. I wore clothes I was comfortable in. This time the perfect evening I planned involved dancing and having a blast with my closest friends. You know what? It was the best time I had ever had up to that point in my life.

What changed? I still had high expectations for the evening. But this time, the best night ever involved fun, laughter, dancing, and quality time with friends. These were realistic expectations. Expecting a boy I had never spoken with to fall in love with me wasn’t all that reasonable.

This is the whirlwind we get pulled into. We expect the dream job to be everything we ever wanted, our partner to make us feel great all the time, parenting to be the most fulfilling experience of our lives, and our dream home to be perfect. What happens when that dream job comes with a boss who requires overtime every weekend, our partner has a bad day and takes it out on us, we aren’t able to have children, or that dream house needs new plumbing? And that’s just one way each of those things could go wrong. The possibilities for disappointment are infinite.

But there’s a flip side. The blessings in life are infinite, too. Unrealistic expectations can blind us to the blessings in our reality. When we take the pressure off and develop realistic expectations, we open ourselves up to see that, even though we have to replace the plumbing in that house, there’s gorgeous hardwood underneath the dusty, stained carpet. We start to notice all our gifts and experience the joy in what life has to offer us instead of focusing on all the ways in which it doesn’t measure up to our perfect vision. Instead of pursing a picture of happiness, we begin pursing happiness itself. If you or a loved one feel they need any assistance, you can contact us to make a counseling appointment and we will help you in your pursuit of happiness.

Interested in more resources regarding changing your mindset towards life? Check out Mindset Matters Most and Goal-Setting Yourself up for Success.

Photo by Ben Rosett on Unsplash

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