Are you looking for a short-cut to happiness, a way to enjoy days full of more fun than frowns? How about a practice that can reduce stress and even stimulate joy? It’s easy, turn your expectations into appreciation. I can’t take credit for the idea, it was Tony Robbins, motivational speaker, life coach and business strategist who said it first, but I have to tell you, it was life-changing for me once I put it into practice.
Often our disappointments come when others don’t do or say what we expect them to say or do. Our spouse, our children, our boss, our employees, we have mountains of expectations around these key relationships in our lives. We squander opportunities for joy when we decide to pick and nag instead of speaking words of kindness. We destroy the desire to share moments of connection, when we find fault instead of seeing all the good.
You may know someone who has difficulty being on time. Despite your reminders and cajoling, it just seems they can never leave when they should in order to be on time. But instead of snarky remarks and eye rolling, try thanking them for efforts to be ready on time. Feel appreciation that they are willing to make a long traffic filled commute or work overtime.
What about your spouse who never hangs up their clothes? You wonder in irritated amazement “Is it really so much harder to put them on the hanger verses the chair?” You might actually find this a most annoying of habits. I know my husband does. Your expectations are that adults hang up their clothes and make accommodations to people they care about, specifically by not being such a slob in shared space, right? But what if instead of letting that pile of clothes send you into a slow burn, you consider what that pile of clothes might signify. What if you could see the pile of clothes as an indicator of the long hours your spouse works, of their courtesy in not wanting to disturb you by turning on the light while you sleep? Not careless, but considerate. Not lazy, hardworking. See how that starts to feel a little better as you adjust your thinking. I didn’t say you had to learn to love the pile of clothes, but they shouldn’t have the power to ruin your day or your relationship.
It’s easy to have unmet expectations during the current situation brought on by the COVID19 pandemic. I was expecting to reopen my OsteoStrong studio after 2-3 weeks of closure. But that is not happening. So instead of allowing potential negative emotions like worry, confusion, and even panic to rise up, I’ve learned to shift my focus to gratitude, in this case for the many customers who said they would stay with my fledgling business and try to help us through a difficult and unexpected situation. I can also be thankful for my dedicated associates who help members and retention as they create online content that helps us stay relative while we are physically separated.
When you are feeling disappointed that your expectations are not being met, stop for a moment and consider what you can appreciate about the situation. Your perception controls your emotional response, and how you feel about it is everything, much more important that the actual incidence or omission by whomever. Take a breath. Take another breath. Give everyone including yourself a break and feel better about almost anything in the few moments it takes to appreciate something about the person or situation. Just one small thing is enough to shift focus and energy. And like all things you practice, it will become a habit and you will become happier when you turn expectations into appreciation.