Unhappiness Lives in Unmet Expectations

Dr. Larry Cohen (856) 352-5428

We are all imperfect and we all live flawed lives. Life can be tedious. If others would only behave how I see fit. Don’t they see life the way I do? Don’t they know that I have it all arranged, that they need only comply with my wishes to create a perfect world?  Most often, our family, our co-workers, and the rest of the world do not fall into line, and you are left expending valuable emotional energy in frustration.  

30 years ago, a wise man told me that the world is exactly how it’s supposed to be. He explained that  unhappiness lives in unmet expectations. That is, to find happiness, we need to change our ways of seeing and our attitudes toward the world. If I did not accept the world just as it was supposed to be, I would remain frustrated and unhappy forever. The rest of the world, I learned, did not want to comply with my perfectionistic plans.

Life is not often fair – but when we see reality clearly and accept it just as it is, peace and serenity have a chance to take hold. Acceptance allows you to stop fighting with the truth and being so miserable about it. Fighting against ‘what is’ leads only to frustration, and never leads to a peaceful resolution of one’s feelings and attitudes. We can choose to expend our energy in anger and outrage, or, we can face facts, accept life on life’s terms, and move forward toward greater things.  

 On page 417 of the AA Big Book, a member shares “acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation—some fact of my life —unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.” 

Those whom I work with often hear me describe each day as a pie. The pie only has so many pieces, and I always ask ‘ok, how much of today’s pie do you want to waste on resentment and anger? You can sit in anger and shake your fist at the world’s unfairness, or you can work on acceptance – seeing and internalizing reality as it is, and not as you wish it to be. How much of today’s pie do you want to devote to acceptance, growth, flexibility, and contentment. It’s normal to be disappointed when life does not go as planned, but spending energy sitting in disappointment is just a waste of that energy.  

Decide: you can expend your energy on life events that you cannot change, or, you can begin to accept life as it is and focus your energy on the positive. Again, UNHAPPINESS LIVES IN UNMET EXPECTATIONS! Whether we are disappointed in our loved ones, in ourselves, or in the world around us. Ask “what’s in my best interest?” To sit with a negative, ungrateful attitude, or to change my attitude and be grateful for what I have within my control. Now you can begin to improve your life.  

Change requires focus, commitment, and an open mind. To change your life, you must count on your inner strength to accept difficult realities. Be accepting of yourself, of others, and of the world. Only then can you break free and find peace.

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