Pursuit of Happiness

Back_instantHi there!

It’s been a while… almost four months in fact (um, where is this year going?!), but I’m back.

It’s hard to say what took me so long to write again, I have about eleven or so half written blogs on my desktop just waiting to be touched with the magic creativity wand, but sadly they’ve just sat there lifeless as weeks and months have passed by.

The longer it got between posts, the more I wanted to come back with a BANG, something that would really shake you up and maybe encourage you in some way or other. I’m not sure if this post will do that, but it’s one that’s been on my mind for a while now and I think it needs to be written.

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like I’m surrounded by a lot of unhappiness every day. Whether it’s failed relationships, career struggles, frustrations with the government (I won’t even get started on this one!) or just getting on with the irregular pace of life, I feel like the past few months have sped by, zapping all inspiration and fervour for life from it and no one has really stopped to think about why.

Why are we unhappy? Where has our inspiration gone? Why can’t we leap out of bed in the morning, ready to embrace a day we will only ever have once?

Finding happiness seems to be central to everything we do, say, hear or watch. This week flicking through channels on the TV made me more depressed than anything – The Bachelor with his string of women who are on the quest for happiness through love or the culinary entrepreneurs on Recipe to Riches who are on the quest for happiness through success. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for people finding happiness through these things but why were they so unhappy to begin with?

I read this fantastic Huffington Post article today that summed up exactly what I’ve been thinking these past few months. Happiness, says the author, comes down to a simple algorithm:

HAPPINESS = REALITY EXPECTATIONS

Woah, let’s just take a moment to consider that. Happiness equals reality minus expectations. So he’s saying when the reality of your life is better than expected, you’re generally pretty happy… yet on the flipside, if the reality of your life doesn’t come anywhere close to your expectations, unhappiness ensues. Pretty obvious, right? Then why is this so hard to grapple with?

The article explores this issue for Gen Y’s – a generation of children raised with the “you can do anything” and “you’re special” mindset. Sure, this was super inspiring growing up, but don’t you feel like it’s now come and slapped you in the face?

I’m surrounded by people unhappy with their relationships, worried about their ability to find a job or dissatisfied with the way they look. Could this have something to do with their expectations for their life?

Yet here’s where it gets a bit confusing; expectations are good – they make us ambitious, driven and determined…but they need to be reasonable. In reality, we don’t deserve anything, but we can work for everything, yet it’s this grey area between our inherent rights and our actual effort where unhappiness erupts.

When I look back at the past four months of my own life, I see a lot of unhappiness and disappointment, yet now I realise a lot of this could have been prevented with reasonable expectations and a willingness to make an effort rather than expect it just to be granted to me.

Here’s two examples of expectation vs. reality in my life lately, and how I’ve looked at it from two different perspectives:

EXPECTATION: I deserve to work five days a week, though currently working four.

REALITY: Circumstances at work prevent me from taking on an extra day

NEGATIVE: Loss of further income opportunity, loss of self-worth in not being a full-time worker.

POSITIVE: I have an extra day to invest into my friends, family and hobbies. It’s given me time to invest many hours into teaching my friend how to drive. (Seriously NSW RTA – 120 hours is crazy!)

and

EXPECTATION: I deserve multiple overseas trips a year.

REALITY:  Mortgage, mortgage, mortgage.

NEGATIVE: Spending my time envious of those having European Summers, and not being grateful for the amazing opportunities I have had and the short breaks I’ll continue to have.

POSITIVE: Opportunity to learn how to save & budget.

I shared these examples at the risk of sounding like a completely selfish brat, and yes I agree I’m so blessed to have a job and have been blessed with plenty of travel opportunities. It’s sad how I’ve fallen into the trap of feeling like I deserve more though. Maybe you have too?  So I hope this blog encourages you to start being honest with yourself about your expectations and even urges you to close the gap between these expectations and reality so happiness, once again, starts oozing out of your life.

I’m not going to stop having big, audacious goals and dreams, in fact maybe focussing on these again is just what I need to launch myself back into life, but instead of thinking I deserve everything, I’m going to take everything I achieve or receive as a blessing and be grateful for it. Will you?

caitlin

PS – Here’s a few snaps from the past few months… 

 

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