I had always been disappointed in my birthday. It always seemed to come up short, the presents weren’t thoughtful enough, the party not big enough, the day just not special in the way I imagined it to be.
It was the same with my jobs and relationships. In my version of a perfect relationship what’s important to me would be the same for my partner. I like to cuddle before getting out of bed; I enjoy spending lazy weekend days out and about together. These shared moments were paramount to a healthy relationship. In my dream job, I would be a high-powered executive running a marketing department and travelling all over the country. I would be happy because I was central to the success of the company.
Without really being conscious of it I had created a very clear set of expectations for holidays, my relationships and my career. These ideals came about over years, through communications with friends, family and business associates. They were further cemented through societal norms, messages received from articles about successful business people, the perfect couple on the television show, the Hallmark version of a holiday. But the reality never seemed to live up to my expectations and when they didn’t, I moved on.
I know I am not the only one that does this, just peruse people’s profiles on the dating sites and you see in detail their expectations for the perfect mate, date, relationship; no one under age 25 or over age 35, has to be a professional, live within a 25 mile radius, be in shape, good-looking and like to go for walks on the beach and travelling.
Rarely can anyone live up to that description.
The problem though, isn’t the holiday or the job or the person, the problem is the expectations. We become so set in the way we think things should be that we leave no room to discover that something different might actually be better. I had refused to change my expectations because I thought that meant I had to lower them; that I should settle and learn to be happy with “good enough.” And no way was I going to do that.
But I have discovered that finding real happiness in life isn’t about lowering expectations, it’s about eliminating them.
In the past few years I have had two truly amazing birthdays. They didn’t include cake or presents or a party, they were incredibly simple – one spent at home with a friend and a movie, one spent in a business hotel in Bucharest making new friends – unorthodox but uniquely special.
It’s been the same with my job, I had the high-powered career, I traveled the country – even the world. I was a major player, but it was hollow. Now I am not the center of anything but I am free to work on the projects and for the companies that have meaning to me, I write and teach. It is not at all what I envisioned my career to be, it is actually much more.
And in my relationship, well I definitely do not get my way; my partner doesn’t cuddle and works on weekends. It is unlike any relationship I ever expected and it constantly surprises me, enlightens me and brings me deep joy.
Your life changes immeasurably when you drop (not lower) your expectations about your perfect partner, holiday and/or job. Give it a try, you just might find yourself unexpectedly happy.