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Expectations and Gratitude

September 28, 2010

I spent a while thinking about expectations today. I’ve noticed lately that happiness and gratitude are very strongly related to expectations. If something you didn’t expect (but is good) happens, you’re thrilled beyond belief and feel a strong sense of gratitude. And yet if you’re anticipating it, the same event feels deserved and comes with a sense of entitlement. However small.

So when something exceeds expectations, that’s when we feel glee and gratitude. And when something fails to meet what we hoped or even if it just meets our hopes, we tend to feel let down. What does this mean about gratitude?

The first instinct might be to think it’s best to lower expectations. After all, the lower they are, the easier it is to exceed them, right? The more I think about this, the more I feel that’s not the right path. I think the trick is to find gratitude even in those situations. I’m all about focusing in the now and trying to have realistic expectations, etc. But at the end of the day, each of us will be disappointed at some point in our lives and the trick is knowing what to do then.

What happened to me today was relatively small. I was frustrated for a while because something that I expected turned out completely different than my vision. I whined and pouted for a while. Then I gave myself a good mental slap. It was my fault for having baseless expectations and what happened instead was still amazing and wonderful and I had much to be thankful for. So instead of changing them, I threw my expectations out the window and told myself to take a good look at what was right in front of me. What I did have.

And, honestly, I had much to be grateful for right there.

I just had to look at it with my bare eyes and not through the colorful lenses of my expectations.

So next time this happens to you, I hope you take a moment to step back and pay attention to how your expectations might be blurring your vision of the situation and how you might actually have a lot to be thankful for right in front of you.

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