Expectations and Gratitude: How To Change your Perspective
I recently returned from a trip to Disney World with my family. It was an exhausting, whirlwind of a weekend, but amidst all the crowds, sights, and sounds, the experience really got me thinking about how our expectations can shape our experiences. Despite the expectation of Disney World being “The Happiest Place on Earth,” I noticed a lot of frustrated kids and parents. While we know it is more difficult for kids to manage expectations and disappointment, I couldn’t help but wonder about the rest of us. Wouldn’t most experiences be much better if we were more mindful of how we approach situations, our expectations and our reactions? Wouldn’t our lives be better if we could experience more joy through gratitude?
In the book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Dr. Brene Brown talks about how to cultivate joy. She shares the simple, yet profound idea that we can choose to focus on what we’re grateful for, rather than focusing on what we don’t have, or what we’re afraid of losing. “Count your blessings” is a phrase we’ve all heard ad nauseam but it can be easy to forget on days like that day at Disney – surrounded by thousands of people and whining kids on a hot day, hearing “It’s a Small World After All” too many times and spending $10 on a hot dog. What might be surprising is that feeling and expressing gratitude has numerous scientific benefits including better sleep, improved emotional wellbeing, decreased depression and improved physical health.
Ready to manage your expectations, experience less frustration, feel more grateful and cultivate joy? Here’s how:
Change your thinking. It takes practice and a conscious effort to change our thoughts in those moments to, “I’m grateful to spend quality time with my family,” or “Yes, I’m disappointed that this wait is long, but this is a minor frustration and a first-world problem.” The truth is, when we feel entitled to something, we often don’t fully appreciate it even when we have it. Practice more positive and rational self-talk when you are feeling disappointed or frustrated.
Check your expectations. When you expect your spouse to regularly do a certain thing or be a certain way and they don’t live up to your ideals, you find yourself frustrated, even angry. It can be toxic to your relationship. When you can change your perspective to recognize your wants and desires as being something you need to express and ask for as rather than something you feel entitled to or expect your partner should just know, your happiness, and your spouse’s happiness will be greater.
Accept that life is not always fair and we won’t always get what we want. Now there’s a tough sentence to read. Although we all know it to be true, we often try to deny the reality and fight to have things our way. That’s just human nature. It’s okay to not always get want we want and accepting that while making a conscious choice to notice opportunities for gratitude, even in the midst of less-than-perfect circumstances, is one important element in cultivating a life of joy.
If you find yourself stuck in a pattern of negative thinking and having trouble shifting your expectations, disappointments and anxiety on your own, we can help you. Changing your mindset quite literally requires you to rewire your brain. It’s hard work and can’t be completed overnight or by yourself. Call or book an appointment online with us to start your journey toward greater happiness and well-being. You might also find our blog post, 5 Powerful Results of Expressing Gratitude helpful as well.