Do you find yourself constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop? Is it hard for you to expect good in life because you are constantly worrying about all of the what ifs?
I was talking to a friend recently about this…about how we often get stuck waiting for something bad to happen because we’re “too happy” and things are going “too well”. We sabotage the happy times that we have by constantly searching for the bad things that may or may not be around the corner?
Why do we do this to ourselves? More importantly, can we break this habit and instead find ways to expect better out of life?
What does it mean to expect good?
Expecting good in life means that instead of spending the majority of our time worrying and going over all of the what ifs in our minds, we spend the majority of our time looking at all of the potential of a situation. It’s using the power of positive thinking to give ourselves a better outlook on the world around us.
That doesn’t mean that we just ignore those feelings that are uncomfortable, or that we consider negative. It doesn’t mean that we shove any emotion except happiness down and put on a brave face. Being positive isn’t a band-aid solution; a cover up.
Trying to be more positive, and expect better in our lives, doesn’t mean that life will always be sunshine and rainbows either. We’re still going to have bad days. It simply means that when those bad days come, we can move through them more quickly because we’ve given ourselves the chance to see that there can be, and is, always better in life.
Why are we more likely to expect bad to happen most of the time?
There are many different reasons why we can’t seem to bring ourselves to expect better in our lives. Everyone’s experiences are different, and the blocks that trip people up are different for everyone. But in my experience, it all boils down to three things: we don’t feel capable, we don’t feel worthy, and we feel selfish.
In a way, expecting bad is easier for some of us than expecting good. It’s not, really, but that’s how we feel. We’re afraid that if we expect good and it doesn’t come, then we couldn’t handle the disappointment. Some people, because of the way they were raised, and their own views on life, don’t believe they deserve any better than what they have. Still others think, “I’ve got it pretty good, I shouldn’t expect better, that’s just selfish”.
But all of these are limiting beliefs that are keeping us feeling stuck and unfulfilled in our lives. Once we can see this, and work to release those beliefs, we begin to see the world open up for us.
There are a few things that I’ve found to be helpful in releasing these beliefs and moving forward.
Spend time each day being grateful for what you have right now, where you are.
Doing this will help you to appreciate what you have. If things are going really well and you’re happy, and you’re driving yourself crazy with what ifs, then you don’t even allow yourself to enjoy the good that you already have in your life. The problem with this is that it gives you the perspective that there is no good in your life. Because you spend all of your time worrying, you only see the worry. You don’t think good really exists.
Seek out those good things in your life and hold onto them. Show appreciation for them every day.
Don’t compare your story, your experiences, with other people.
Sometimes we do ourselves a real disservice when we say things like, “It could be worse”. While that’s true, it can always be worse, saying that to ourselves invalidates our experiences entirely. We don’t feel like we have any right to be upset, or to be proud of ourselves for what we’ve gone through, because it wasn’t as bad as what someone else went through.
Try not to focus so much on the how, but instead focus on the what and why.
Let me explain…there are so many different factors that affect our lives. I’m not saying this to freak you out, but rather to give you hope. No matter how open you are, how in tune you are, or how smart you are, none of us can possibly know everything. Because of this, there are a million different ways that good things could enter into our lives. Just because you can’t see it now, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a way.
For instance, I would like to have complete financial freedom – no debt, the ability to do what I want to, when I want to, etc. – so that’s the reason I’m saving money, choosing to buy a car that may be a little less flashy, but also a little cheaper, and working to earn more money. If you know why you’re working so hard, it makes it easier to do so, even on those rough days.
Work every day to train yourself to expect good.
I say work because it does take a little effort, but I’ve found a way to do this very simply.
Take a piece of paper and write the words “Expect Good” on it. Then place that paper on your mirror, your computer, your car dash, or wherever you’ll see it multiple times a day. You can also set reminders on your phone throughout the day with the words “Expect Good”. If you do the reminders on your phone, be sure to also write the words out too. There is something powerful about writing the words out, in your own handwriting, and placing it where you see it most. It’s like a declaration to yourself.
What this does is it begins to shift your focus from worrying to expecting better in life. When you first get started, these visual reminders are the best thing to help snap you out of the worry cycle. Eventually you’ll be able to start catching yourself without the visuals, but at first that’s a little harder because it’s such a habit.
Which is another thing, expecting good things to happen rather than worrying about the what ifs is a habit that takes time to cultivate.
There are those people that just naturally have a more positive outlook on life. However, anyone can develop this mindset with a little practice. Even the most positive people get stuck in a rut sometimes. Especially if there is a lot going on in their lives, or they’ve had a run of disappointment, sadness, or frustration.
Really though, training your mind to see more of the good in life is just like learning any new skill. When you start a new job, or start playing a new sport, or learn a new instrument or exercise, you have to practice to become better at whatever it is that you’re doing. Put that same effort towards looking for better in life and you’ll begin to see more and more of the good that’s out there.
I think that’s part of it for a lot of people though, it sounds too simple.
If someone were to ask me how they can be happier in their life, I might suggest that they just change their mindset. “Just change your mindset”. It sounds so simple, but what we don’t often see is what it takes to change our mindset. Working through some of the traumas we’ve gone through, identifying and diving into why things trigger us, and releasing limiting beliefs. Suddenly, it doesn’t sound quite so easy.
I’m not telling you this to try to discourage you from trying. Far from it. I’m saying all of this because there are those of us that equate “too easy” with “doesn’t really work”. In other words, if the solution to a problem is too simple then it’s not likely to work for us at all, so we’ll be wasting our time trying.
Some of us have this automatic reaction in our minds that says, “What’s the catch? It can’t really be that simple.” It’s like if you went to play a game and the person running it said, “All you have to do to win is lay this quarter on this plate”….and the plate is right in front of you, unobstructed by anything or anyone.” Most of us would wonder what the catch is. We would be looking around for something to fly out at us, or pop up at us.
Something I’ve been working on lately is finding the good in the “bad” things that have happened in life.
It’s important to acknowledge that there are things that have happened in our lives that we wouldn’t wish on anyone. But, it’s just as important to see how those things may have helped us grow and become the person we are today.
For example, if your childhood was completely unstable, and you didn’t have parents that we always so dependable, it can be easy to take that experience and not trust anyone. Or to always fear abandonment. But what about the fact that there were people other than your parents who always looked out for you, even if you didn’t always know they were there? Or, if you were left alone, did that experience help you become more independent? Just because there were traumas in our lives doesn’t mean the experience was entirely bad.
I realize that this is REALLY hard to acknowledge sometimes, especially if the trauma was severe or more recent. This is not something that you should try to force yourself to do until you’re ready. It’s best to have someone around you that you can trust to help you work through all of this; a loved one, a friend, a therapist/counselor, etc.
Being able to seek out the good things that came from our bad times not only helps us to expect better overall, it also helps us to heal. If we can do this, it takes away the power of whatever, or whoever, hurt you and places it squarely back in your hands.
And it’s with this power that we can move forward and create a life that is immensely more fulfilled.
Be where you are now, and work through things in your own pace. Like I said before, being positive and optimistic about life isn’t a band-aid solution. Putting on a happy face when you’re really hurting inside doesn’t help you actually heal. Just the opposite, it prolongs the pain.
Imagine you are Nemo, in Finding Nemo, when he’s being initiated in the fish tank. (“Shark bait, ooh haha!”) This sounds silly, but what I mean is this, sometimes the bubbles in our lives (the hard things) look very menacing, but if we muster our courage and plow through it, often we find that it’s easier to swim through the bubbles than we thought it might be. It’s the anticipation of pain and suffering that is often worse than the actual thing we’re avoiding.
Once we go through whatever it is, we can look back and see how brave we were, how capable we were, and begin to expect good in our lives.
One of the best things that we can do to learn to see the good in the world, is to create that good.
You’ve heard the phrase, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”? This is similar, “Be the good you wish to see in the world”. Instead of waiting around for good things to come to you, or the world to get better on its own, start creating good where you are, with what you have. Doing so not only benefits others, it also helps us to see the other people out there who are trying to do good as well.