Everyone wants to be happy, no doubt. Especially in midlife when we feel like our ducks should be lined up nicely in a row…
On our way to an easier street. Kids mostly grown. Jobs relatively secure. Relationships rather solid.
We would have expected to start coasting into a more peaceful, dare I say, cheerful, time in life. Which it could be, but we ruin it for ourselves with trouble-making expectations.
Our expectations are killing us – squashing our joy.
“Expectation is the root of all heartache.” – William Shakespeare
Yes, it’s good to have goals and dreams and to expect good things in our lives. In fact, the expectation of finding renewed purpose as we get older is vital to our physical and mental well-being.
But when reality doesn’t match up to our expectations, it can be an overwhelming mood and motivation beat down. When life doesn’t play out as we’d imagined, it can set even the most optimistic of us up for feeling down, feeling like a big, fat failure.
Our expectations, and how well (or not) we and others around us have met them, is what can set the bar for how we feel about ourselves and our overall outlook on life.
Not what we expected, for example…
Our expectations of income may not be what we had thought it would be at fifty-something. Bam! Enter feelings of failure and inadequacy.
Our children may not be marching in line following all our advice and guidance like perfect little wind-up dolls doing everything we imagined them doing. Bam! Feelings of failure and inadequacy pop up again.
Our partner doesn’t automatically read our minds and do the dreamy things we had imagined they might for us at this stage of life. Bam! Unmet expectations leave us feeling resentful, unworthy and unlovable.
There are far too many examples to list. The expectations we have of ourselves, our partners, our children – basically anyone in our lives – are endless and frequently unmet.
Worse yet, if we’re not conscious of it, the weight of them being unmet can choke and crush our ability to feel joy.
The would-have, should-have, could-haves we beat ourselves and others up with, sabotage our chances of finding joy in the what is.
“Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.” – Brene Brown
So, how can we find joy in our present reality, in the truth, in the what is?
The powerhouse joy-creating practice of mindfulness can help us unsquash our joy!
Mindfulness is the practice of bringing our awareness to the present moment – the truth, the what is. It is a conscious release of the regrets and unmet expectations of yesterday and the pressured expectations of tomorrow.
Accepting the what is is work.
It takes courage. And patience. And love. Enough love for yourself, or your partner or your children to allow things to be what they are. To accept the imperfections and the altered dreams.
To let go of what we think should be and look around at what is. And that clarity allows us to show ourselves and those we love (especially those who haven’t met our expectations) kindness.
There is no love or kindness in withholding happiness because expectations weren’t met.
We can still reach for life goals and dreams if they are truly important to us, but we must remain kind and accepting when people or plans don’t exactly behave or work out as we expected them to.
Unhealthy ties between expectations and our feelings of adequacy are killing us and our access to joy!
It’s midlife already my friends – we’ve got to learn to figure this out and cut the heavy, unfair expectations loose!
“Peace begins when expectation ends.” – Sri Chinmoy
So much of living life fully and experiencing joy in midlife lies in letting go of expectations and embracing the truth. Embracing the way things are and finding gratitude and appreciation regardless of how we had anticipated things to be.
We must be truly mindful and conscious of when our negative thoughts and feelings of inadequacy are tied to unmet expectations, and not to truth.
If you want to feel more positive about yourself, your loved ones, your life… you have the power to stop this unhealthy cycle.
“In today’s rush, we all think too much, seek too much, want too much, and forget about the joy of just being.” – Eckhart Tolle
Start today. Be aware of why you feel so down and disconnect the tie between your expectations and the truth (and beauty) of what actually is.
Cheers to using mindfulness as a tool to consciously overcome our unmet expectations and find the joy of what is to life a happier life.
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