In the last week or so I’ve been re-reading, The Happiness Equation. A great read for a little pick-me-up!
I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness lately and what that means to me, and how I can go about cultivating more of it in my life.
I realize that happiness is not necessarily a destination. I also think a lot of my happiness is within my control. That it’s something that needs to be practiced.
One area that I’ve been narrowing my focus is about expectations. I realize how just important expectations are when it comes to at least MY overall happiness. Let me unpack that a bit.
Expectations of Others
The majority of my sadness recently that I’ve noticed came about because I was expecting a result that I wanted from someone else. But that expectation not being met was completely outside of my control.
For example, since I’ve started my blog (over 5 years ago), I make a point to spend a lot of time engaging with the personal finance community. I wake up at 5:30 am most mornings so I can spend time reading other blogs and commenting.
A lot of the time the engagement goes both ways, which builds up our PF community and friendships!
But as you bloggers may have experienced at one time or another, sometimes you spend a lot of time reading and commenting on someone else’s blog, and they may never visit your site or comment back.
This is where a typically anxious and over-analyzing individual such as myself starts thinking thoughts ranging from:
- Anger: “What the hell!!! Am I not good enough of a blogger for you!?”
- Sadness: “Nobody likes me.”
- Self-doubt: “Maybe I’m just a sucky writer??”
Because of the expectations I have (that no one but me could have possibly known), I start going down the massive rabbit hole of bad thoughts.
Then that leads to being extrinsically motivated by whatever is I do. “Maybe I should write this or that or write like so-and-so to get more traffic.”
Bad. Bad. Bad.
When I’m aware of it, I can easily (ok, so perhaps it’s not super easy to do), re-examine my whole thought process and look at things from a different perspective.
Focus on Intrinsic Motivation
First, it’s to remember to be intrinsically motivated by what I do. Because my blog is not a main source of income to help provide me with shelter and put food on the table, I get to do it as a hobby. I like writing and being creative. Any outcome resulting from that is completely out of my control.
The second is I can’t for one second control how anyone but me does anything. EVER! The only thing I can do is focus on being the best version of me at any given time. I know the best version of me is not someone who is mopey.
Another thing to remember is it’s not personal. I have not visited every blog of every person who has ever commented on mine. People are dealing with a lot of stuff in their own lives. And hey if it is personal, that’s on them, not me! Unless I did something to purposely hurt them, then it’s their issue.
And this is just one teeny tiny area of my life that I realize I let expectations affect me in ways that it shouldn’t.
Expectation of Others on You
The second thing about how expectations affect your happiness is when other people have expectations of you that you can’t and shouldn’t live up to.
Whether that’s your parents, friends, teachers, or co-workers, they may have a way they want you to behave, or career path to follow, income, or maybe even who you are dating.
In the book, The Top Five Regrets of The Dying, one of the regrets is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”
Most people who put expectations on you are probably not happy about their life or certain areas of their life, and they project that disappointment on you.
Now obviously there are times where you do need to live up to someone else’s expectations in certain areas of life, like a job. If that, for instance, is a big pain point for you, then you need to either think about a new job or consider working for yourself. But in the example of a job, if you meet those expectations, there is nothing that says you can’t be uniquely you about how you go about meeting those expectations, so long as you aren’t hurting anyone of course.
Remember that the next time someone says, “hey you should (buy a house, grow your hair out, run a marathon, eat/don’t eat meat, etc.)
This is also not to say that expectations are a bad thing! If you set goals for yourself and don’t achieve them, you are not meeting your own expectations. But all that is within your own control.
Do you ever find yourself getting disappointed because someone didn’t meet your expectations, or someone had too many for you?