Problems. We all have them. Everyone goes through them, and none has ever escaped from them. No one — not a single soul on this planet — would ever claim that his life is “problem-free”.
But before I get to the point of this post, let’s see what definition our good ol’ friend Google can give us for the word “problem”:
prob·lem (präbləm); noun — a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome.
Now let’s look at the words that we often associate with the word “problem”:
Disappointment. Difficulty. Trouble. Inconvenience. Setback. Frustration. Misfortune. Delay. Anxiety.
According to Google’s definition, a “problem” is a matter or a situation (now, I’m going to stop right there). So if we examine the first part of that statement alone, a problem is an occurrence, an event or an incident that simply takes place.
Now moving on to the second part of the definition, “regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome”. This statement to me is what makes a problem a “problem”.
Consulting Google once again to further stretch our understanding of the word, we will find that to “regard” is to “think of (someone or something) in a specified way”. Now, there’s one perfect word for that (you got it!) — JUDGMENT.
Making A Mountain Out Of A Molehill
The opinion you form in your mind about a situation or occurrence affects your view of it, and consequently determines your experience of it.
Simply put, how you judge — or better yet, your negative judgment of — a situation is what turns it into a problem.
So when you’re already running late to an important meeting, and the only parking space available is quite a (walking) distance away from the office building, that inconvenience becomes a problem.
When you’re practically minutes away from missing your flight and you’re caught in a traffic jam, that delay becomes a problem.
When your significant other fails to return your call while on a night out with friends, that anxiety you feel becomes a problem.
When you’ve made business commitments based on someone else’s promise to you, and that person fails to deliver on that promise, that disappointment also becomes a serious problem.
A Flaw In Our Mindset
What we all need to realize is that many of the things we regard (stressing that word again) as disappointments, frustrations, troubles or hurdles in life are actually caused by one flaw in our mindset:
Most of our problems stem from unmet expectations that we have placed in ourselves and in the people we love.
We expect — to receive, to feel, to be something — because deep down in our subconscious, we believe that we are somehow “entitled” to whatever it is we expect… that we are somehow “owed” something.
When we do someone a favor, we believe that person owes us a “thank you”. So if those words are never expressed, we feel hurt and disappointed. Why? Unmet expectation.
After working long hours and having proved our loyalty for many years, yet we still keep getting overlooked for a promotion, we begin to feel angry and resentful. Why? Unmet expectation.
A significant other who breaks off the relationship can be pretty hard to accept. After all we have invested into the relationship, it makes no sense for the other person to reject us. In no time, this feeling of betrayal and rejection morphs into a full-blown depression. Why? Unmet expectations.
An “expectation” by definition is “a strong belief that something will happen, or that someone will (or should) achieve something in the future”. Now you might be wondering what could possibly be so wrong with firmly believing in something, and I would tell you, “Nothing”.
But I would also say that we need to ditch the expectations we have placed upon ourselves and other people for the simple and obvious reason that we’re all imperfect beings — bound to make mistakes, to forget commitments, to fall short of someone else’s often unfair and unrealistic standards, to disappoint one another.
Having a resolute belief in a specific outcome isn’t the problem. In fact, it’s one of the essential requirements for manifesting anything we desire in life. The problem begins when that belief is misplaced.
How To Correct This Flaw In Our Mindset
From the standpoint of psychology, a habit is a fixed way of thinking. Now, mindset, as we all know, is also defined as a fixed mental attitude, or a habitual thought pattern.
To effectively break a habit, we’ll need a new habit with which to replace the old habit. Ergo, in order to ditch this flawed (to say the least) mindset of hanging on to expectations, we need to flip it with:
A mindset of gratitude is more than just expressing thanks for blessings we receive. The objective goes way deeper than just verbalizing feelings of great happiness when there’s a continual flow of good fortune in our lives.
Adopting a mindset of gratitude requires changing the way we view our lives. If we are to successfully weed out this “entitlement mentality” from the roots, we should start with an awareness that life — and everything that comes with it — is a gift.
The very fact that we’re alive right now is a gift.
The planet we’re standing on is a gift.
The air we’re breathing is a gift.
The people in our lives — every single one of them is a gift — even those who make life seem difficult for us, or those whom we regard as hopelessly unlikable.
Every situation presents a valuable and necessary lesson that is essential to our growth and development as human beings. Assuming that we all are constantly striving to be a little better than we were the day before, then we can take every experience, pleasant and unpleasant alike, as a gift.
Simply put, gratitude is the lens that magnifies God’s goodness in every circumstance.
Goodbye, Expectations! Hello, Joyful Anticipation!
Once we shift our mindset to that of gratitude, our expectations will then be replaced with joyful anticipation.
“How is anticipation different from expectation?”, you might ask.
The word “anticipation” is quite similar to expectation in the sense that it also involves a firmly held belief and an expectancy of a desired outcome.
Once again, the difference is in the mindset.
Expectations stem from a mindset of entitlement, while anticipation comes from a mindset of gratitude.
The entitlement mindset operates from a place of fear, while the gratitude mindset operates from a place of love. Huge difference. Polar opposites.
So when we’re hanging on to expectations, we’re constantly on the lookout for the next moment someone makes a mistake and disappoints us. We’re constantly worrying about the other person failing to satisfy our needs. We constantly feel the need to take matters into our own hands, become controlling, and protect our own interests all because of fear. Once fear takes over our lives, even trusting people who never gave us any reason to doubt before becomes a struggle.
When we have expectations, what we’re really doing is we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment, and possibly heartache, as we’re bound to find out sooner or later that the world doesn’t owe us anything.
Joyful anticipation, on the other hand, is all about leaning not on people but on the Source Power that supplies all our needs, and relying on the abundance of resources and opportunities that infinitely exist around us. It’s anchored in an unyielding belief not in an imperfect human being, but in a God who always keeps His promises, and is intimately involved in our lives.
Joyful anticipation also means waiting for the outcome we desire, but with hope, optimism and patience. It’s the result of a mindset shift that prompts us to declare, “Even if things don’t turn out the way I hope they would, I will continue to wait with gladness and appreciation for an even greater blessing that I believe is coming my way.”
Joyful anticipation is the offspring of faith and gratitude.
So get rid of that entitlement mindset, and adopt a mindset of gratitude instead. Ditch the expectations, and replace them with joyful anticipation. You’ll be amazed how one simple change in your mindset can cause a ripple effect of joy in your life.
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Originally published at medium.com