Verse of the Day
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
1 John 4:11-12 NIV
Transform Expectations into No Matter Whats
Posted: 03 Aug 2016 03:20 PM PDT
The most ungrateful person I know is an older woman who can't see the beauty of her life because she is so bitter that it didn't turn out the way she thought it should. She has a lovely home and garden, healthy, bright, successful children, a fifty-year marriage, and the means and health to travel. No one in her immediate family has died or been seriously ill, she's never known poverty or lack; she is, from all external measures, highly privileged, with much to be grateful for. And yet all of what she has is completely invisible to her because somehow it doesn't match the picture of what she expected. Her kids don't live close enough or visit often enough; she wishes there was even more money; her marriage isn't as loving as she desires. Her ingratitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy, for the more she complains, the more lonely and isolated she finds herself as friends and family grow weary of her moaning.
To me, this acquaintance is an important teacher in the practice of gratitude--a vivid example of how expectations can create blinders so that we can't even see the true blessings of our lives. Expectations are the killers of gratitude and joy: If you expect to live in the Taj Mahal, your cozy little cottage will feel pretty awful; if you expect your son to become a doctor, you can't appreciate him for the fine bodyworker that he is; if you focus on how you are going to be miserable without a BMW, your trusty, rusty Toyota that reliably gets you around will only bring you misery.
Having hopes, dreams, and visions for the future is one thing; it's important to have goals and schemes pulling us into the future. But we need to be careful that such envisioning doesn't get in the way of appreciating the things we have in the here and now. Let's not miss the beauty of our actual lives while we're lusting after a mythical perfect life.
If we expect someone or something outside ourselves to make us happy, we lose our power. The truth is we can't count on anything except our ability to choose how to respond to what happens to us. One way to counteract the tendency to look outside ourselves for happiness is to practice No Matter What. Before you go into a situation, ask yourself, "What is it that I can learn, accomplish, or experience here, no matter what happens?" Let's say you have to give a speech and are nervous about how it will be received. Your No Matter What might be, "No matter what, I want to experience a sense of peace while talking. As I look out into the audience, I'll remember to breathe and notice that at my core there is peace." Afterwards, no matter what else happened--that people appeared bored, or no one came up to thank you--you can still appreciate yourself for having kept your commitment to experience peacefulness.
When we practice No Matter What, we are no longer hooked by expectations to externals--other people, other events--but are free to choose what we will focus on to make us happy.