I had an interesting conversation with a co-worker on happiness and expectations. She referred to a statement (not hers) that didn’t sit well with me for some reason: Happiness = reality – expectations, which is also brought up in a NY Times article (http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/19/lowered-expectations/?_r=0). The more I thought about it, the more I realized how this world was teaching us that in order be happy, don’t strive, don’t improve….rather, be content to stay where you are. Don’t help others strive, rather…encourage them to settle for less than better.
No wonder there’s a hunger, and famine, for excellence…we’re being deprived of it through the culture, mentality, and peer pressure of mediocrity.
So, as I pondered it…these thoughts came to mind:
On the subject of “Happiness”, the world will have a tendency to teach this:
Happiness = Reality – Expectations
In other words, people will suggest that you remove any expectations or standards, and just be content with “what is”. Simply put:
Happiness = Reality
This is what is called “settling”. This is what the world will teach you: Remove your standard, lower your bar (expectations), and force yourself to settle with the current situation. You may even have to “like” the situation and be content with what you have.
Why not think of it this way:
Happiness = Reality + Expectations – Disappointment + Forgive + Love + Build + Gratitude + God
The more challenging, yet more fulfilling, path to happiness is:
1. REALITY – understand the reality of the person or situation…both the strengths and weaknesses, the advantages and disadvantages,
2. EXPECTATIONS – keep the bar high, keep the standards high, strive for excellence…and keep aiming for it.
3. REMOVE DISAPPOINTMENT – When that excellence isn’t reached…don’t let disappointment eat at you…because you will be disappointed. Remember, all things will fail. Rather,…
4. FORGIVE the situation or person for not meeting it…
5. LOVE – See the worth (value, blessing, strengths, advantages) and potential for growth and improvement…and then,
6. BUILD – Get to work on improving…the right way…and then…NOTICE THE IMPROVEMENT! Consider the idea that “you got this far” since the last time you checked…that you didn’t give up, that you did it properly, that you cheated no one, and you were honest about it all the way through—with yourself, and others, and that your effort was sincere/genuine and yours…and then, soak yourself in that accomplishment for a bit. Aren’t you glad? (It’s the same idea when you’re dealing with others as well.)
8. GRATITUDE – Now, don’t forget to thank GOD for the chance to help you get this far.
Where does God’s happiness come from whenever He sees his children not meet his expectations every minute of every day? Is he content with the reality that his children are imperfect and will never be perfect as long as they live on this earth? Or could it be that He is happy when he sees us improve as he loves us and helps us despite our weakness?
Consider your own children (if you have children of your own) or younger siblings, perhaps…when teaching them to walk (or do whatever) for the first time. When are you most happy? Are you happy with the reality that maybe they can’t walk because they keep falling down? Or do you forgive that first stumbling step…and the next…and the next..and keep cheering them on! Because you know they have that potential and ability to walk and do much more, you guide them, you lead them, you hug them, and keep cheering them on. Then, once you see that they’ve taken that first step, and then the next, and then the next…and then walk 5 steps towards you…and then they’re running to you…well, how do you feel now? You didn’t lower the bar to just 1 step or just 3 steps. You kept the bar high: you can walk ANYWHERE! And look at them now…they’ve reached that bar…and exceeded it!
Maybe, happiness isn’t just being content with what you have or settling where you are. Happiness with circumstances and with others requires us to exceed our own boundaries while applying principles of Christ’s atonement (forgiveness, love, building, gratitude, and God) generously.