Do you want to be happy in life and with your relationships? Lower your expectations!
Most of us grow up believing we are going to be rich, or famous, or at least happy. It seems, however, that the real world rarely lives up to our expectations.
I love how Jerry Seinfeld sums up the problem with the real world: “The bad thing about television is that everybody you see on television is doing something better than what you’re doing. Did you ever see anybody on TV like just sliding off the front of the sofa with potato chip crumbs on their face? Some people have a little too much fun on television: the soda commercial people – where do they summon this enthusiasm? Have you seen them?
“We have soda, we have soda, we have soda”, jumping, laughing, flying through the air – it’s a can of soda. Have you ever been standing there and you’re watching TV and you’re drinking the exact same product that they’re advertising right there on TV, and it’s like, you know, they’re spiking volleyballs, jetskiing, girls in bikinis and I’m standing there – “Maybe I’m putting too much ice in mine?”
Though many people in the addictions field don’t speak about boredom and the real world, it remains one of the main reasons recovering addicts relapse. They have lived in a world of adventure and the real world moves very slow. In short, it’s boring. The typical day used to start with cravings and emotionalism, they would spend time looking for a means to buy drugs, go to the deal, do the deal, take the drugs, zone out for a period of time, come down, clean up, and go to bed. Compare that to the heroine addict who goes on a Methadone program. He or she gets up, goes to the pharmacy, gets a Dixie cup of methadone, drinks it… now what? It’s 8:30 in the morning and your schedule is done.
Believe what you want about substance use, it does fill up your day. Most recovering addicts complain that ‘normie land’ is boring, slow, and generally a let-down.
Let’s be honest, they are right. The real world is not like it is on television. Your job, no matter what that is, is usually a series of days you will probably not remember. That new car is exciting for a week or two then it’ just a car. Even relationships get stale after a while.
I’m trying to lower my expectations.
I was ADHD before it was cool. The world seemed to move at a snail’s pace. Even now, as a full grown adult I find most days are just… ok. It is tempting to become despondent and self-medicate, or give up, or get bitter. It is also tempting to feel that life is unfair, that things haven’t turned out the way they were supposed to in my childhood fairytale. I can rail and cry and take all the Cipralex I want, things may not turn into Game Of Thrones. There may be no more dragons to slay or maidens to rescue and somehow, some way, I need to learn to be ok with that.
I have come to believe that, at least for me, maturity and wisdom has something to do with learning to be content in spite of my outside world. I have seen firsthand how, when I lower the emotional impact of my expectations of my partner, my children, my work, and my world, that I am able to be more at peace. I am trying to get to that point in my marriage, for example, where I have no expectations of my wife. If she shows up I’m happy. She is crazy enough to love me and want to share life with me so what else can I ask? I’m not there yet but I have noticed that, as I endeavor to change my way of thinking, it is making a difference in my life.
Cognitive Therapy teaches us to realize that changing our mind may be better than trying to change our actions. If we can do this then our actions become more authentic and flow out of who we are, not how we feel. Change your mind and your ass will follow. As I begin to shift my focus from my unreasonable demands, as I learn to take care of myself before pushing my agenda on others, as I take the time to develop an attitude of gratitude and as Covey said, “Seek first to understand and then to be understood”; than slowly my world begins to change.
“Life is a journey not a destination”, they say. It is never too late to transform your life, if you are willing to put in the work.