It’s impossible to be happy.
At least, that’s what a lot of people think right now. We tell ourselves that we need to perform exceptionally well in our career, relationship, and every other aspect of our lives.
But whenever we fall short of expectations, even by a small margin, we can’t help but feel like we’re not good enough and will never be able to live a happy life. Right?
More often than not, this idealistic version of success keeps us trapped in a negative mindset, from which it’s incredibly difficult to escape. But as the Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, once said:
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”
Quite rightly, you want the best for yourself. You want to improve your life, fulfil your potential, and live each day with a renewed sense of optimism that enables you to accomplish anything you desire.
Fortunately, there is a solution to your current state of unhappiness. Because if expectations are the cause of your disappointment, eliminating them from your mind will enable your life to change for the better.
Let Go Of The Things You Cannot Change.
The stoics regularly wrote about how worrying can prevent you from living a happy life, because if you have no control over the outcome of a situation, spending your time overthinking is certainly not a productive use of your time. As Epictetus once said:
“There is only one way to happiness, and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.”
Without even realizing it, we often spend our days wishing for things to be different, and for our lives to have gone in a different direction. But if you’re always thinking about everything that you can’t change, you’re not allowing yourself to focus on what you can.
For the longest time, I found myself getting frustrated at my lack of progress in making new friends. Having grown up with severe anxiety, I was afraid to talk to new people, look them in the eye, or anything else that involved communicating face-to-face.
The truth is that I was afraid that people would judge me for the insecurities that I saw in myself. But when I began realizing that I couldn’t control the actions of others, my anxiety quickly faded away as I began to focus solely on what I could control.
For example, I knew that some people would judge me, criticize me, and make me feel insecure. But if I could focus on the things within my control, such as talking to people more frequently, my chances of overcoming social anxiety were much higher.
If you want to let go of expectations, you need to first let go of the things you cannot change. Because when you focus on everything that you can control, instead of worrying about what you can’t, you can concentrate solely on the things that matter to you.
Learn From The Past To Improve Your Future.
Ryan Holiday once said, “There is no good or bad without us; there is only perception. There is the event itself, and the story we tell ourselves about what it means.”
Whenever you encounter adversity, it’s easy to get depressed as you might feel like you’re not good enough to exceed your expectations. But instead of seeing the event as a negative experience, try to use it as a teaching opportunity to develop your character & become the person you desire tobe.
Similarly, Napoleon Hill wrote, “every adversity, every failure, every heartbreak, carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.” In other words, your entire life will change when you use adversity to learn from the past so you can improve your future.
That’s not to say you should stop caring about expectations set by yourself or other people. But if you can detach yourself from any feelings of negativity caused by them, your life will noticeably feel a lot happier.
I’m going to leave you with a quote from Seneca, who beautifully speaks about the importance of eliminating expectations so you can begin living a better life:
“The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow, and loses today. You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control, and abandoning what lies in yours. What are you looking at? To what goal are you straining? The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.”