Original Photo Credits: BK. (CC 2.0)
Things just happen and then we judge them and react to them based on what we believe is good or bad. In other words, our reactions to events are determined by our ideas of what reality should be like in order to live up to our idea of what’s good.
That’s the mechanism and if you are happy with your life, well that’s just fine. But if you’re not, you might want to ask yourself what your standards are and who is setting these standards for you?
Did you set these standards for yourself or have you just accepted the belief systems of your family, friends, peers, school, workplace, culture and society without question? And if this the case, what kind of stories are you telling yourself about the way things ‘should’ be? Are you even aware of your stories? And have you really considered the belief systems your stories are based on?
Are You Setting Yourself Up For Failure?
If you aren’t completely happy with your life, if you spend a lot of time wanting what you don’t have, it might be a good idea to take a closer look at your standards and expectations. When you do this, you may discover that you are setting yourself up for failure and unhappiness without being aware of what you’re doing.
Unfortunately until we wake up, most of us are not setting our own standards. Rather we are unconscious and go through life judging our experiences according to standards and beliefs we are not even aware of. There is nothing new or unusual about this. We are all doing this.
Until we become aware of it, most of us just blindly accept the ideas, standards and expectations that are propagated in the societies we live in. These messages and belief systems are all around us and we are constantly getting cues from our families and friends, from the media and television, from our schools and workplaces, from our politicians and leaders. And we blindly accept many of these beliefs, standards and stories because that’s the way we are brought up.
Question Your Beliefs and Wake Up
No one has taught us to question these beliefs. No one has taught us to ask ourselves – is it true? Is this good for me? Will it make me happy? No one has taught us to really ‘see’ what’s going on. And no one has taught us to see the difference between reality and our stories.
So for many of us, it’s not until we find ourselves deeply unhappy or in crisis that we start to question our beliefs and begin to wake up. There’s nothing like a good crisis to force one to take the time to investigate and question what we really believe. When we do this, there’s a very good chance that we may well discover the connection between our stories, our standards, our value judgments – and our happiness and well being or the lack of it.
In case you didn't notice, this moment is perfect... with the soft falling rain... even though you think the sun "should" be shining and you "should" weigh 10 pounds less, be younger, look better, have more money in the bank... even though...This moment is still perfect...
Looking At The Difference Between Your Expectations And Reality
A great way to wake up to reality is to take a look at the difference between your expectations and reality. Here's what to do:
Take out a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle, and make two columns. Then at the top of the left-hand column, write My Expectations and at the top of the right-hand column, write Reality.
Now pick someone in your life who you believe is making you feel unhappy or dissatisfied. For example, pick your boyfriend. Or pick your mother. Or pick your boss at work.
Now write down under My Expectations all the things you expect or would like your boyfriend, mother or boss to do (which they don’t do). Then write in the right column under Reality how this person really is – how your boyfriend, mother or boss really is.
Now go back and look at each item under My Expectations and explore how this expectation makes you feel. Does it make you feel upset, especially when this person doesn’t live up to your expectations? Does it make you feel angry, sad or what?
Then look at the Reality in the right column and explore how you would feel if you dropped your Expectations and just related to the person based on the reality. Really look at how this makes you feel. Then explore how you would act towards this person if you dropped your Expectations and focused on the Reality! How would you act? What would do you differently? And how does this feel? It’s a very interesting experiment.
Do We Really Know What’s Best?
My own story proves that I don’t know what’s best – even for me. If I look back now at how I was when I was 20 or 30, I couldn’t have imagined what I know and understand now. It simply wasn’t a part of my universe or level of understanding. That’s how much I’ve grown since then. So my ability to conceive and know what was best for me back then was null. I just didn’t know then what I know now.
So if I look 20 years ahead (if I’m still alive in this body) how can I possibly know what I will know then – in 20 years time! It’s just not possible!
And if I look at how I am now compared to when I was younger – how did I get to be like I am now? What made me grow, evolve? What made me ask questions? Was it the good times or the bad? The truth is, it was all the difficulties I’ve had that made me grow and ask questions.
Remembering What We Don't Know
It was the times when life wasn’t going the way I thought it should be going. And now, with the longer view, I can see that those so-called ‘bad’ times were actually what it took to make me wake up and grow!
So it’s pretty obvious that I didn’t and still don’t know what’s good or bad. It’s pretty obvious that I can’t see the long view. It’s pretty obvious that I simply don’t know…
Now that I realize this, I can also see how joyful life can be if we remember this. If we can just remind ourselves not to be so quick to judge what’s going on in our lives. Not to be so sure we know what’s best. And remind ourselves how things turned out in the past. How past events prove that we probably can’t see and don’t understand why whatever is happening right now is for the good.
Wouldn’t this be a very peaceful, joyful way to live?
It’s mind-boggling to think about isn’t it?
It would be gratitude… the attitude of gratitude… all the way home.
© Barbara Berger. Reprinted with permission.
Excerpted from a book entitled "Sane Self Talk"
(available only in Danish and Korean at present).
Book by this author:
Are You Happy Now? 10 Ways to Live a Happy Life
by Barbara Berger.
What is preventing you from being happy now? Is it your partner, your health, your job, your financial situation or your weight? Or is it all the things you think you “should” do? Barbara Berger takes a look at all the things we think and do that prevent us from living happy lives now.
About the Author
Barbara Berger has written over 15 self-empowerment books, including the international bestseller "The Road to Power / Fast Food for the Soul" (published in 30 languages), "Are You Happy Now? 10 Ways to Live a Happy Life" (more than 20 languages) and “The Awakening Human Being – A Guide to the Power of Mind”. American-born, Barbara now lives and works in Copenhagen, Denmark. In addition to her books, she offers private coaching sessions to individuals who wish to work intensely with her (in her office in Copenhagen or on Skype and telephone for people who live far away from Copenhagen). For more about Barbara Berger, see her Web site: www.beamteam.com