A simple strategy that makes life better

Sometimes we can learn a lot from a friend, especially if we haven't talked to them for awhile.

Blog. Smiling woman. 2.19That's what happened when I talked to a friend for the first time in months. I said, "It's been too long. How are things going for you lately?"                                  

Her face lit up with a big smile and she said, "Lately my life has been really, really good."

"That's great! Has something changed?"

"Nope. I just learned what makes the difference between being happy and being frustrated. It's a simple thing, really. I lowered my expectations. That makes all the difference."

Her words came back to mind several times that week, probably because, um, I needed to hear it.

How about you?

Lower my expectations. Could it be that simple?

I remember conversations that came up at our house. Maybe you've heard something like this at your house, too:

Me: "Well, I thought you would _____."

My husband: "How was I to know what you expected? You're just disappointed because I didn't live up to your expectations."  

He was right, of course. (Sigh.) 

Too often I considered my expectations to be the way things "should" go, conveniently leaving out facts and personalities. That's totally one-sided, of course, and it's not fair. 

No surprise, such exchanges happen at work, with neighbors, with our children. Anywhere. It's almost always something that causes tension.

A solid place to start

The more I thought about it, the more clearly I understood how my friend's new attitude could change life for the better.

It's not complicated:

Expect less and rejoice over what IS, rather than stress over what isn't.

This sounds so basic it makes me think well, any fool should be able to do that. 

Exactly. That's the point.

Plotting it out

You probably aren't a psychiatrist or a counselor. Neither am I. But you and I can do this!

We first need to lay aside our comfortable, customary habits. Then baby-step by baby-step, we adjust our thinking and reacting until the new feels as comfortable as an old bathrobe.  

Don't think big. Think small. Manageable. Small twists on what you already know.

And always, always, be patient with yourself and with others. It takes awhile to settle in with this new way of looking at life.

Where to start? It's your choice 

    1. Put aside former notions and accept each person in your life as they are. (Think of their differentness as a spice in life, rather than an irritant.)

    2. Reaffirm what's worthy in people with a bit of praise now and then. (Hint: That's the best way to see more of it.)
    3. Spend more time looking for what's good than hunting out what isn't. (Get ready to be surprised.)

    4. Be glad and grateful for what is instead of wishing for what isn't. (Decide to view your glass as half-full, rather than half-empty.)

    5. Look around at your own four walls with fresh eyes. (Breathe in the warmth of the home you've created, rather than picking out its flaws.) 

    6. Learn to appreciate small everyday joys. (They're the stuff of daily life.)

    7. Smile more. (This cuts down on wrinkles, too.)

    8. Begin each day with, "Thank you, Lord, for my life and the people in it." (Watch how this simple practice brightens the day.) 

Three universal principles 

  • We get back what we give out.

If we long to hear praise we need to hand it out, too. (This will ring phony unless we open our eyes and actually see the people around us.)

Suppose you want your spouse to be more thoughtful and loving. You could try sighs and nagging, but that's seldom a hit. What works best is giving out what you want in return. (This may take awhile, so don't give up.)

  • Be forgiving of flaws.

Nobody's perfect, not even you or me. Aren't you glad? When we keep this thought front and center in our minds it smooths over a lot of life's stresses. 

  • Get real and give up chasing perfectionism.

Perhaps you, too, were raised on, "Anything worth doing is worth doing well."

Let it go. Lots of times, good enough IS good enough. You hereby have my permission to relax. (I'm giving myself the same message.)

Contentment. A synonym for happiness?

The Apostle Paul wrote, "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances."  (Philippians 4:11 NIV)

Ponder that a minute. Even the Apostle Paul had to learn to be content, so let's be patient with ourselves as we take two steps forward and one step back. Over and over. 

We are, after all, only human, remember? Through God's grace in Jesus we are forgiven sinners, but here on earth we'll remain flawed. 

Once we take that in it's easier to lower our expectations and be glad for what is. Be glad for the good qualities in your family and the people around you--and let go of your expectations of how each one could be "better" in your eyes.

After all, don't we want the people we love and the people around us to accept us as we are?

So let's start at Square One and lower our expectations. Let us be glad for and thank God for what is. 

Now, can we all breathe a big sigh of relief?

Learning, too, 


January 29, 2020

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