The Cure for Expectations

house_sitting_expectations

I recently wrote a review on the book UnFu*k Yourself where one of the authors rules for life was “I expect nothing; I accept everything”. As you think about this for a while it begins to make sense. Expecting things to turn out a certain way or for people to act a certain way is the road to disappointment. To start out with it takes you away from the present and instead you are living with expectations of the future. Let’s take a few examples:

  • While I’m driving I expect people to follow traffic laws. Little things like stop signs, traffic lights, speed limits, etc. Now this is one hell of a stupid expectation. When humans get behind the wheel of a car they turn into complete morons.
  • I expect that I will be recognized for my work at my place of business. Occasionally this happens, but never enough to live up to our expectations.
  • I expect that my significant other will appreciate the things I do for them. So what is it that they must do to live up to these expectations?
  • I expect that my children will be as motivated and driven as I am. That’s a real crock of shit.
  • I expect that my government will spend my tax money smartly and not build up trillions of dollars in debt. How silly is that?
  • I have expectations for myself surrounding being constantly happy or healthy. Set the bar high my friend and disappointment will find you.

These are just a few examples of how we all live with expectations that are literally sucking the fun out of life. There is no better way to mess up living in the present than by having all these stupid expectations. I’m not advocating that you don’t have dreams or goals, but be aware that if these are laden down with heaps of expectations you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Things rarely turn out the way you expect, often things turn out much better or much worse. You have so little control about how things will turn out, or what someone thinks of you, and planning on how things will turn out is a risky proposition. Do the best you can but don’t be so definitive about the outcome.

So what is the cure for this never ending life of expectations? I’m guessing if you read Gary Bishop’s book you know the answer. One little, but powerful word Acceptance is all you need to understand. By accepting things as they are, you are taking a big step towards living in the present. Give yourself a fucking break; you can often be accepting of others, but you can’t cut yourself some slack. If you can start living with a mindset of accepting life as it is, you will begin to really enjoy what you have and maybe even the things you do. Here are a couple of different ways to look at acceptance:

Acceptance-1Acceptance 2

You don’t need to throw away all your dreams or vision for the future, but don’t get so specific that you put yourself in a corner when things don’t turn out exactly as you expected. Throwing out those silly expectations leaves you open to a whole new perspective and to enjoy how things unfold. All of this can provide amazing levels of joy instead of comparing what happens to your expectations.

I will leave you with one other quote from Gary Bishop that really resonated with me.

“Plan for victory and learn from your defeats.”

Here are a few quotes on acceptance to ponder.

Happiness can exist only in acceptance. George Orwell

The greatest gift that you can give to others is the gift of unconditional love and acceptance. Brian Tracy

The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance. Nathaniel Branden

My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations. Michael J. Fox

Acceptance looks like a passive state, but in reality it brings something entirely new into this world. That peace, a subtle energy vibration, is consciousness. Eckhart Tolle

Namaste

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The Current Expectation

The Happiness Movement

There is a movement in recent times that sets an expectation that we can live a life filled with happiness. Gretchen Rubin wrote a book a few years back called the “Happiness Project” where she expounds on a number of ways to increase your level of happiness. We are constantly subjected to a barrage of advertising that shows us how happy people are with that new car, drinking beer at the beach, or taking expensive vacations to Caribbean. All of these things advocate living a lifestyle that will make us happy forever more. There is a high expectation that if you just buy this, learn this, or do this activity happiness will follow.

corona beach

Unfortunately a consistent state of happiness is probably an illusion, and thinking that it is achievable may be somewhat dangerous to enjoying life. What I mean by this is that you are setting an expectation that is not achievable and this will actually cause you to think something is wrong with you if you are not in a constant state of bliss.

Each of us face so many challenges in our life such as health issues, family strife, making a living, and the list goes on and on. Do you really expect that you will feel happy during what are often very negative events that occur? You need to give yourself the opportunity to feel angry, sad, frustrated, inpatient, as these events unfold. That doesn’t mean you wallow in your pain and conduct a lifelong pity party, but allow yourself some time to express your feelings.

“Life is not a big long beer commercial, much of living is also filled with struggle and challenging situations”.

While it is true you can emerge from a painful situation, stronger and wiser, you may even learn something from it, but you will not be in some state of continuous euphoria.

Instead of expecting a life filled with happiness whatever that really means, be realistic and expect that your emotions will rise and fall like the tide. I really like listening to speakers like Les Brown, Tony Robbins, Bob Proctor, Esther Hicks, Mel Robbins, and Jim Rohn; these people are very motivating and can give you some great tips for being more successful and effective in life. Things like the Law of Attraction and the 5 second rule are great tools for enhancing your life, but like any tool it will have its limitations. Most of the time I hover somewhere in between happiness and sadness, somewhere in the middle, not overcome by either emotion.

My parting advice would be:

  • Feel Happy
  • Feel Sad
  • Feel Angry
  • Feel Pain
  • Feel Frustrated
  • Feel Love
  • Live in the Moment

Just don’t fall into the trap that your life should be one where you are in some heightened state of happiness all the time.

Root of Our Suffering

A certain amount of our life is dealing with pain, it happens to all of us, and we can avoid the suffering associated with it, but it is a difficult thing to do. I like the quote below because it resonates with me. I make no claims to have eliminated all attachment in my life, but I agree it is often the source of suffering.

Root of suffering

Namaste

 

Casting off attachments

One of the primary concepts in Buddhism is that impermanence is an undeniable fact of human existence.  For each of us this means that nothing in our lives is permanent, not our job, not our health, not our relationships, not even our state of mind. If we can accept that nothing lasts forever and that it will inevitably change then we are more capable of understanding attachment.

Many of us are attached to who we think we are because of what we do for a living. We secretly know that whatever it is we do will not last, but we still place great emphasis on this role. We often use this role in society to attach some value to ourselves, and yes whatever we do is often in exchange for money, so it does have value. It strokes our ego to be paid for some form of expertise and we attach ourselves to this title be it a Doctor, Lawyer, Teacher, Judge, Accountant, CEO, CIO, Director, or whatever it might be. We scheme and plan for the next role using our expertise to acquire more money, a higher position, or some other ego enhancing attribute. We have attached our self to this persona and we find comfort in the fact that others find value in utilizing our skills.

Yet this attachment goes beyond the role we have chosen for ourselves that generates income. We start to attach ourselves to political parties, calling ourselves a Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian. Our attachments are strong, as you have often heard people say I’m a lifelong Republican or Democrat. If this were not enough we attach ourselves to things such as cars, homes, boats, jewelry, stocks, bonds, gold or some other material thing. We attach ourselves to other people like a family member, a spouse, co-worker, or a friend. We also attach ourselves to a self image of the way we look and our health good or bad.

With all these attachments we become very reliant on our role, organizations, health, things, and people for defining our identity. All of this is a house of cards, we will not escape the reality of impermanence, for every one of these things that we think defines our life are constantly changing. These attachments ultimately lead to one disappointment after another, as they unravel before our eyes and I assure you they will.

There is nothing wrong with enjoying what you do for a living, but remember at some point it will change. Even the most successful Doctor finds a time when he or she can no longer practice medicine, or no longer wants to. Strong attachments will create pain as they are broken and this is what this post is about. I’m not advocating that you live a life where you don’t care about anything or anyone, but you must let loose of the attachment to these things. Accept the fact that your life will change and that you will change physically, mentally, and spiritually. Do you really want your self worth tied to some profession? When you were born were you predestined to be a doctor, lawyer, executive, or factory worker? You made choices to pursue various lines of work and became what you pursued. Drop that attachment, you are not what you do for a living, and it does not define you, and as sure as it started it will end or change.

Start thinking about what you are attached to and how you can be open to things beyond your attachments. Can you find it in yourself to be less dependent on what you do for a living, organizations, people, and things. If you can, I assure you that you will become more care free; you will still care but you will not let these attachments dictate your happiness. To free yourself from attachments is a key step to following the way. I will see you on the path.

Namaste

 

Your life is right now!

I have this app on my phone that you get inspirational quotes from, and the other day I was checking it out in the morning like I normally do and the following came up:

“Your life is right now! It’s not later! It’s not in that time of retirement. It’s not when the lover gets here. It’s not when you’ve moved into the new house. It’s not when you get the better job. Your life is right now. It will always be right now. You might as well decide to start enjoying your life right now, because it’s not ever going to get better than right now-until it gets better right now!” Esther Hicks

I don’t normally make the focus of a post on a quote alone, but in this case I had to make an exception. For some reason reading this a couple days ago just seemed to resonate with me, as I have been struggling to stay focused in the present, often drifting into future mode. Future mode is a slippery slope and tends to lead to nothing but cycles of envision, want, plan and acquire, followed by another cycle of envision, want, plan and acquire. Oddly enough this reminds me of my job as a Project Manager, anyways it is no way to live your life.

Hope you enjoy this quote and take it to heart. Stay in the present my friend.

Namaste

A little advice from Abe

It seems lately that a lot of my inspiration to write comes from reading quotes.

Abraham Lincoln said “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.

Seems like a simple little quote as many of his quotes were, but look around you and you will see that most folks haven’t made up their minds to be very happy, in fact we are surrounded by a multitude of unhappy people. Certainly Abraham Lincoln had many challenges that would have kicked the crap out of anyone’s happiness, but he chose to look forward beyond his personal troubles and the incredible challenges of a civil war to become one of the greatest leaders of all time.

happy

In the past it was my philosophy that willing yourself into a positive mindset would not create any lasting optimistic outlook, but maybe I was wrong. Certainly happiness cannot be created by just wishing it so, or can it? We all face many pressures in our lives including financial, health related, death in the family, addictions, relationships that have gone off the tracks, and they pile up and have an impact on our peace of mind and subsequently our happiness.

There are many ways to combat the onslaught of negative things that life throws at you, but maybe President Lincoln was right, just maybe we are as happy as we make up our minds to be; well at least it might start there. Try as we may we cannot isolate ourselves avoiding bad things that will happen to us and we often have little control of how long these challenges will last.

I hope you can convince yourself that happiness is a choice and follow that bit of advice from Abe.

Namaste

How to Live in the Now

As someone who is truly a work in progress when it comes to living in the now, I often feel unqualified to write on this topic, but maybe that is where most of us seem to be in our lives. I think we all want to make this more complicated than it really is, expecting that for us to live in the now we must become enlightened in some way. I am going to take a simplistic approach to helping you live in the moment and offer only two things to work on:

meditation on the steps

1) Meditate – You can say I am living in the moment, concentrating on what is going on right now, and not playing some future script of you life in your head, but you are really just brainwashing yourself with positive thinking. We all need to learn to meditate to teach our mind to live in the moment. You say well that should be easy, but I say it is much more difficult than you may think. My first couple experiences attempting to meditate last 5 or 6 minutes and it seemed to be much longer than that at the time. It seems to be relatively common knowledge that for the benefits of meditation to take hold you need about 15 – 20 minutes a day. Although even 5 or 10 minutes can be beneficial, but make 15 – 20 minutes your goal. There is nothing like meditation to help you live in the moment. You may consider yourself just too busy to meditate, I’ve often thought that myself and then I think about the the old zen proverb:

If you don’t have time to meditate for 15 minutes …Then you need to meditate for an hour!

simplify

2) Simplify – You might just consider simplifying your life by starting to say “NO” to people, and to the desire to do everything, to make everyone happy, and to have everything. As long as you buy into the program that you can have it all and do it all, which is really bullshit by the way you will never stand a chance of focusing your attention on the moment. Pick the 3 or 4 things that are really important to you and start focusing on them, and forget about the rest. This will put you in the mindset that focusing on the present is the most important thing you can do because you don’t feel like you need to do it all anymore. Too many priorities just makes that much more noise in you head and make it difficult to focus on the present.

There are other ways to move towards living in the moment, but these two are highly effective. I didn’t say either learning to meditate or simplifying your life are easy to achieve, but I do believe that they are effective tools in helping you live in the now. This is my focus right now in my own life. I am determined to move my mindset to the now by meditating and simplifying my life. In the next installment on this topic I would like to make a case why living in the now will actually make you more productive, happier, and maybe even more successful.

Namaste

Embracing the Monday Goals

If you have read some of my prior posts you know that I was advocating that you set a goal each Monday that will lead to making positive changes in you life. These might be losing weight, exercising more, eating better, overcoming some unhealthy addiction, starting a business, getting a new job, repairing a relationship, and the list goes on and on. I’ve been taking my own advice and am now on my fourth goal or fourth Monday. What I have begun to realize is that most of the goals I set are ongoing and require a frequent investment in time to achieve, so they tend to pile up and require a lot of dedication to achieve them. This is a good thing, but sometimes it might be wise to throw in some easier to achieve goals in the mix. Here is an example of how you might intersperse some goals that can be more easily achieved or at least require less ongoing time to support:

Week 1: Do something everyday towards a business you have started. Clearly this will be one of those ongoing goals that requires effort overtime, categorize this as a big goal.

Week 2: Make changes to your diet to include more fruits and vegetables. This is one of those easier to achieve goals and doesn’t have a lot of overhead associated with it.

Week 3: Practice yoga six days a week. Again this is a pretty big goal and has no end date, you achieve this goal 6 days a week so we might categorize this as a big goal.

Week 4: Make a commitment to donate $500 a year to the United Way. Here is a pretty easy to achieve goal that only requires minimal effort. For those of you who work for a corporation this is simply filling out the pledge card once a year.

Week 5: Commit to calling your parents or siblings once a week. This is somewhat of an in between goal, not a huge time commitment but it does require some discipline.

These are just a few examples of goals that have an ongoing cost, and those that are a bit easier to achieve. Does the fact that a goal requires a big commitment make it more important? Maybe but take the goal for Week 2 of adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, and Week 4 of donating $500 per year to the United Way; one might suggest these are both pretty important things to do. We all have limited time, so those goals with a high ongoing costs must be things you are extremely committed too. It is always a good idea to have some goals that you can achieve more quickly but that still have a positive impact on your life or the life of others.