There is a simple equation that predicts happiness:
Contentment = Achievement/Expectations
In other words, how happy or content we are with a situation is directly related to our expectations of that situation.
Just let that sink in for a minute.
How happy you are is dependent on what you expect vis-à-vis what actually happens or occurs. Pretty simple concept. Simply have expectations that are aligned with reality or what is likely to occur. Easy…Peasy.
If it’s so simple, why is it so hard to be happy?
Broadly speaking it is hard to match achievement and expectations largely because we are either:
- Unaware of the expectation in the situation or
- So tied to expectations (or beliefs) we can’t see any other way.
I am going to focus on #1, those expectations we are unaware of. I call these Vampire expectations for the obvious reason; they suck the life and happiness, out of us.
Seriously, just like there are human vampires; you know those people that suck the energy out of a room, there are expectations that keep us running in circles, constantly annoyed, irritated and agitated with life; never getting what we want or expect.
This cycle keeps happiness, contentment and the ability to simply appreciate the small things in life at bay.
Vampire expectations lurk below our subconscious, driving actions, reactions, thoughts, behaviors and emotions. They were planted in our mind at a very early age, so early, we don’t remember ever really thinking about them. That’s why they have so much power. They’re hidden.
We’re just used to them and don’t think about them. It’s kind of like walking. Do you have to think about how to walk? Nope. Vampire expectations are like that. Whatever the object of their attention is, we don’t have to think about it. We just REACT.
What to do about these nasty Vampire expectations? That’s easy peasy too, just bring them into the light. Just like a real life vampire (meaning movie vampires) shining bright daylight on the evil one makes it go POOF and disappear.
The problem with any Vampire is actually finding it. Our movie vampire is a bit easier to locate as it needs to sleep somewhere during the day. Your Vampire expectations however live in your subconscious. How do you find them in all that dark murky stuff in your mind?
Here’s how….Vampire expectations show up in every day life as agitation, annoyance or irritability. You’re just annoyed and not exactly sure why, sometimes not even aware that you are annoyed. There was no major crisis or problem recently that you can put your finger on. You just feel ‘off’ and annoyed.
You may be ‘shoulding’ all over yourself and others…’I should have…’ or ‘He shouldn’t have…’ or ‘They should…’ This is another way Vampire expectations show up. They tell you something should be different than what it is or how it happened.
In other words, the ‘achievement’ part of the equation did not meet your expectation. And hence you are unhappy.
These are your queues to stop and pay attention. Examine your annoyance and irritation. Trace it back to an event or situation. It may be such a small event that it is hard to put your finger on. Think about similar times when you had this annoyance. What are the commonalities?
Once you pinpoint the event or situation, ask yourself some questions:
- What was the expectation associated with the ‘should’? Name it. Try to be as specific as possible.
- What is the source of the expectation? How has it served you or helped you in the past?
- Does it really matter? What if you decided to get rid of that expectation? Will the earth stop rotating?
Here’s a simple example to help put this into practice.
Your arms are full with bags as you approach the door to a building along with another person, a gentleman. It has been a good day and you are in fairly good mood. You slow your approach to allow the gentleman to open the door for you. You do this automatically. Its not a conscious thought.
The gentleman opens the door and walks through. You juggle your bags to hold the door open with your foot and go on through. You are annoyed but don’t dwell on it but have a fleeting thought that he should have held the door for you.
When you get upstairs you yell at the dog and snap at the kids for not putting the dishes in the dishwasher. You slam the groceries into the fridge and wonder why life is so hard. Good mood gone.
What happened here? There was a Vampire expectation that was not met.
“A gentleman always opens the door for a lady” is buried somewhere in your subconscious. It has served you well allowing gentlemen to be gentlemen and showing respect for common courtesy. You are a lady.
Does it really matter? In the scheme of life, your life, no it doesn’t. Allowing that Vampire expectation to be in control has now taken the happiness out of the day and made you into a cranky person to be around. Is this what you want?
No. Simply identifying and examining the expectation will most likely make it go POOF. You have brought it out into the light where it can’t survive. Next time you approach a door with full arms, you will simply open the door yourself or ask for help. No annoyance. No irritation. No snapping at the kids.
Achievement = Expectations.
Life is good. Life is happy.