as quoted in Psychology Today…

Between You & Me…

What About Those Pesky Expectations?

May 6, 2020

his isn’t the life I’m supposed to have,” Maggie wails at her therapist. Calmly but sternly her therapist replies, “Yes…but this is your life.” Maggie sits stunned, the world coming to an abrupt halt. Her brain racing to process while her emotions careen like a metal ball smacked about and bouncing off the walls of a pinball machine. This is the first time Maggie allows herself the thought, “YES, this is my life,” and “Now what the f&*# do I do?”

Just like Maggie we all have expectations, particularly when it comes to marriage. Some are negative and some positive. It’s human and healthy to feel both. We learn what to expect from our experiences as we grow from youngsters to adults. These expectations are then continuously reinforced over time.

Understandably, by the time we’re adults our demands are pretty hard-wired. Those who fear the future and see it as scary and dangerous often suffer from anxiety. Others may look at the future and think, “What’s the point? Things will never change.” These individuals may suffer from depression. And those who say, “I’m doing the best I can and sometimes I can do better,” will feel more balanced and accepting of themselves and others. Remember…

The choice is 100% ours when it comes to our thoughts and behaviors.

Individuals live by a set of rules and assumptions based upon personal core beliefs. Core beliefs are the deep-seated, absolute, all-or-nothing thoughts/statements we have about ourselves’, close others, and the world around us. These absolute beliefs determine the internal, individual rules we live by. In turn, these self-prescribed ‘rules’ further influence both how we believe we should behave as well as the behavior of those around us. Naturally, these expectations may lead us down twisting roads with hairpin turns, ending up right back from where we started or worse… ending in despair.

I find life is a balance between being hopeful, realistic, flexible and grateful.

Where would we be without Hope? The future would forever remain the same. Without hope life seems regrettably blue and unhappy. We only go around once in this lifetime, best to grab on tight. Losing hope is giving up. Not much left after that.

hopeful woman looking into the sunrise over the lake

Realistic, the next ingredient for balance. Aim for possibility and not pie-in-the-sky fantasy. We can dream of being the first woman President and certainly we know the odds of that are most likely stacked against us. Perhaps running for mayor or town council would be a better place to start.

Turn lemons into lemonade.

Flexible, not rigid. I find it so much easier to be adaptable, to go with the flow. Swimming upstream is far more difficult not to mention exhausting. It’s so much easier to be open when things don’t go our way or according to plan…remember the lemons to lemonade metaphor! Look for the positive. Tilt the picture some and reframe things in a more constructive light. It makes for a much sunnier disposition.

woman with hand on heart showing gratitude

Finally, and most importantly, be Grateful. This is the secret to a happy life. Simple. From random acts of kindness, remembering others who are less fortunate, a simple smile and thank-you, to appreciating nature and Mother earth, the animal kingdom, the arts…you get the picture. These are gifts we can give to ourselves and others. They don’t cost anything and I find they soothe the soul.

When going to bed every night, make an effort to recall the moments that went well during the day. Then add a heaping measure of gratitude for it all. Keeping a Gratitude Journal is even better. Studies of Neuroscience confirm practicing this ritual every night before going to bed rewires the brain. After a short period of time, you’ll wake up each morning with a positive feeling and an upbeat attitude. Along with eating a “breakfast of champions,” you’re all set for whatever comes your way that day.

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