health

"The key to happiness is so simple. I cant believe nobody told me about it."

It looked like I had it all – a beautiful family, career success, good health – all the things most people have on their list of life goals, and yet I couldn’t shake off a feeling of lingering unhappiness.

Every day I’d find a reason to feel like shit, like a failure, like less-than. I had no idea what was going on and was desperate to get through just one day of not feeling that way. My life was perfect, so why didn’t I feel it?

The answer – my expectations were all wrong.

Dr. Travis Bradberry, coauthor of Emotional Intelligence 2.0,  says expectations – both our own and the expectations placed on us by others – can determine our happiness. He explains in his new blog that having expectations that are too high or too low can mess with us equally.

Your expectations shape your reality. They can change your life, emotionally and physically. You need to be extra careful about (and aware of) the expectations you harbor as the wrong ones make life unnecessarily difficult. Be especially wary of the expectations that follow—they give people all kinds of trouble.

Those who have expectations that are too high can often be left feeling disappointed because nothing is perfect.

Those who have expectations that are too low can fail spectacularly by self-destructing.

Self-belief is good, but as long as it is realistic.

That’s where I was at, all about the highs and the lows. I’d imagine myself achieving wild success so vividly that mild success left me feeling disappointed. I’d be so filled with dread at the prospect of other things that I’d bomb out, like a sick, self-fulfilling prophecy.

Then a therapist and friend suggested to me – try having no expectations. Stop attaching outcomes to everything and just let events unfold. Her words changed everything for me. From that day on instead of allowing my internal voice to say, “This will be amazing” or “This is going to suck”, I’d just think…”I wonder how this will go? We’ll see. I can’t wait to find out. I’m just going to let it all unfold…”.

Take that The Secret. Manifest a car parking space. Seriously? So dumb.

Oh Kim K, we’ve all had days like this. Article continues after this video.

Video by E!
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I’d been writing for years and still expected my articles to be the most successful of the day or to completely bomb…

I’d been doing TV and radio for years and still expected to nail my segments perfectly or totally stuff them up…

There was no wiggle room, no room to just sit back and relax and breathe and enjoy the ride.

Dr. Bradberry has taken his examination of expectations and their effect on happiness further, saying it’s not just our own expectations that influence our lives, but the expectations placed on us by others.

The tricky thing about your expectations is that they impact other people too. As far back as the 1960s, Harvard research demonstrated the power of our beliefs in swaying other people’s behavior. When teachers in the studies were told that certain (randomly selected) children were smart, those kids performed better, not only in the classroom, but also on standardized IQ tests.

That’s why parents need to believe in their kids. That’s why teachers need to believe in their students. That’s why we need to believe in each other. So we can learn the ultimate lesson…to believe in ourselves but also to invest as much in the steps it takes to get us there as we do in our ultimate goals.

Now, before I suggest you stitch the words, “Happiness comes from within” on a throw pillow, I’ll leave you with a little story.

A couple of decades ago I was radio announcer and I met an unknown band who went on to find huge fame and success. They’d already been together for almost a decade by the time I met them. I remember chatting to one of the members of this band and he explained to me that success wasn’t their ultimate goal.

They would love to experience it but they would still be performing and making music regardless of the outcome because they just loved making music. Anything they achieved on top of what they were already doing was just a bonus.

Happiness should come first, not the other way around.

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