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Expectations: The Happiness Killer

“My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportions to my expectations.”

We all wrestle with expectations. From the moment we enter this world, expectations shape our lives. Our parents set rules, schools establish standards, and employers demand certain performances. But as we grow, we develop our own set of expectations for others—a cycle that perpetuates itself through relationships and interactions of all kinds.

Expectations themselves aren't inherently negative; they're a natural part of life. However, the trouble arises when we invest too heavily in the expectations of others or when we hold rigid expectations of those around us. This can lead to a reduction in our capacity for peace, happiness, and joy, while simultaneously fostering anxiety, stress, and resentment. As Brene Brown aptly puts it in her book Atlas of the Heart, Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.”

When we harbor expectations, we create detailed scenarios in our minds of how things should unfold, how they should look and feel, and perhaps most significantly, how others should behave and respond. This not only sets us up for resentment, it also limits our ability to give people the grace we so often require when we disappoint others. 

The secret challenge with expectations lies in their close connection to desire. Desire is deeply ingrained in human nature, and while it can drive us forward, it can also lead to suffering. Drawing from Buddhist philosophy, desire is identified as the root of discomfort, and thus, all desires—even the desire for freedom or liberation—present a challenge. However, life devoid of desire isn't desirable either; it can manifest as symptoms of depression and a lack of purpose.

So how do we navigate this delicate balance? It begins with awareness and acceptance. Recognize that expectations are a part of life, but they don't have to dictate our happiness [or lack thereof]. Instead, cultivate an attitude of acceptance towards the unpredictability of human behavior and the inevitability of unmet expectations. Have as much patience with others as you desire they would have for you. Most of all, work to mature your perceptions so that you can embrace the reality that nobody is here to live up to your expectations. 

By taking these things into consideration we can release the grip of rigid expectations and embrace the beauty of acceptance. By doing so, we pave the way for greater peace, joy, and fulfillment in our lives.

And as always, if you need help figuring out how to be more accepting, let's chat! (CLICK HERE)

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