Happiness equals…

I am now the parent of a two year old.  That also means I am now in the throes of parenting said two year old.  And no, before you even think it, the twos aren’t all terrible…although parts of it may cause me to wave the white flag in surrender.  Since I’ve been the parent of said two year old for 11 days now, I figure I’m pretty much an expert on two year old behavior (read: heavy sarcasm here).

Lately I’ve been trying to be more reflective of my parenting skills, and also attempting to parent well in high-stress settings (read: grocery shopping with a two year old who has a propensity for tantrums and throwing things).  Basically, I’m trying to make sure we can go out in public without wanting to crawl in a hole because my two year old is acting a fool.

All of this reflection and assessment has led me to one thought: when my expectations are not appropriate for my child, I will always be disappointed in his behavior.  When my expectations are for him to be quiet, sit in the grocery cart for 45 minutes, and entertain himself, I am setting myself up for disappointment (and him for failure).  He is not capable of such high expectations on a regular basis as a two year old little boy.  God did not create him to sit and be quiet for that long, and to expect him to do anything other than get wiggly or loud after a short time is my own fault – not his.  When I adjust my expectations to something more realistic, we both end up less stressed and find the experience more enjoyable, or at least tolerable.

This revelation led me to think more about this principle – does my happiness (stress level, contentment) depend on my expectations and reality being evenly matched?  If so, life is going to leave me severely disappointed.  This plays out in more than just parenting.  When we decided we were ready to start a family, we quickly discovered it wasn’t going to be as simple as A + B = C for us.  We were dealt the wild card of infertility.  And I’d be lying to say that I lowered my expectations and it was an easy walk through that journey.  For two years it was a monthly battle of being disappointed because my expectations did not match reality.  Looking back, I could have saved myself much heartache and despair if I had been able to lower my expectations.  Yes, MUCH easier said than done.

Turns out, I am not the only person thinking about this[1], and the equation and definition this author wrote out really resonates with me.

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“When the reality of someone’s life is better than they had expected, they’re happy. When reality turns out to be worse than the expectations, they’re unhappy.”

When I adjust my expectations to be more in line with reality –  whether in parenting, marriage, career, finances, relationships – my happiness (and my sanity) is left in tact.

Two questions for you in closing today: Are you letting your happiness (and maybe even your sanity) depend on reality matching your expectations?  In what area(s) of your life do you need to lower the bar and adjust your expectations?

Your happiness might really depend on it.


[1] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wait-but-why/generation-y-unhappy_b_3930620.html

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