Finding Gratitude

To find gratitude, I think it’s helpful to imagine things not existing. Instead of saying that I don’t like these qualities about my house or my wife or my life, why not instead imagine those things not existing at all. So instead of comparing those things to my ideal versions of them, I compare them to nothing. And when I compare my life to nothing, I have everything.

While hate is comparing two things and preferring the absence, love is preferring the presence.

I hate qualities about my life and myself and my wife, but I also love my life and myself and my wife. I wouldn’t prefer a lack of life over life or an absence of my wife over my wife. 

This realization that I prefer things over their absence is appreciation. To look at the qualities that they have instead of the qualities that they don’t have. To be thankful for what is, and not mad about what isn’t. 

With this in mind, I can be grateful for both the time with my family and away from my family. 

This got really interesting when I started thinking about the afterlife. Because if I die I would lack all the people that are currently a part of my life. So while I can be grateful for what was. And they may be grateful for me.

Regardless of the afterlife, they will lack me. But in the case of the afterlife, I would lack them as well.

We all may lack someone in the next life, for reasons I’ve discussed before. But I think that void is filled with gratitude and not regret. Unless, that is, we lack the one person that we shouldn’t lack.

Expecting Unhappiness

 

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When one’s expectations are reduced to zero, one really appreciates everything one does have. -Stephen Hawking 

First, let’s define expectations as a set of predictions about the future. Gratitude is the opposite of expectations. We can be grateful about certain things, but not others. But it’s nearly impossible to be grateful for something that is outside of our set of expectations. As expectations approach zero, we are fully grateful. If gratitude approaches zero, we are full of unmet expectations. Expectations create a void. Gratitude is the absence of void.

Hope is not expectations. I hope that I live another forty years, but I don’t expect it. Once I expect it, anything shy of that is a disappointment. Hope is belief that there is a possibility that there will be a time where your reality [or a portion] is better than right now. Hope becomes expectations when you decide that your dream is essential to your happiness.

What is the difference between hope and expectations? Hope does not create a void. Hope is just belief that the future could be better. I hope my arm heals up or I expect my arm to heal up. Hope involves accepting the present reality. I do not need my arm to heal to be whole, but I would be very grateful if it healed. If I expect my arm to heal, my current reality is incomplete until my arm heals. I can never be fully whole without a healed arm. And the truth is there is an infinite set of realities that involve a healed arm, and an infinite set that involved an unhealed arm. If I expect my arm to heal, I cannot be completely happy with an unhealed arm.

The past is unchangeable. There is literally no hope to change it. It has been written. If you expect a life that doesn’t include your mistakes, you’re going to be unhappy, because it doesn’t exist.

What do you expect out of your life? How far are you from that right now? Let’s start with a much smaller scale. You go out to eat and you order a steak. It’s a nice restaurant, so you’re paying $30+ dollars per streak. You order it medium rare.

At this point, you’ve probably unknowingly set some expectations on the meal. [And the restaurant has placed some expectations on itself] With the price of the meal being high, and the restaurant being fancy, you automatically expect more out of this meal. You put in your order, and expect it to be right, and delicious. Maybe it’s good, and maybe it’s terrible, but expectations at this point are so high, that even a good steak make just appease you.

On the other hand, take the same meal at a dive bar with a $15 steak, and you may have people lining up down the block for it. With lowered expectations, the customer has no choice but to be impressed with a good steak.

How does this apply to the bigger picture? Imagine that fairy-tale wedding: the perfect dress, picturesque setting, and Prince Charming. Girls dream about these things when they are very young. We encourage it. They make decisions based on this ideal.

In reality, you wear a great dress, and have a great wedding in a great place to a great guy, but you may still not be happy. Because you let your dreams effect your reality.

Chances are great that you’re not a millionaire and you didn’t marry a supermodel, so how do you get out of bed every morning? Gratitude. Gratitude is the ultimate mindset in accepting what you have. It doesn’t mean that you can’t work towards making millions, but it means that you can be happy along the way.

So how do I keep moving forward without being bogged down by my expectations?I’m not saying that it’s not okay to dream. It’s important to move ourselves and society forward. But as things happen, we shouldn’t look back on our plan constantly, because it will never measure up. And if our happiness is based on how well our expectations match our realities, we will never be happy.

Don’t let other people’s expectations of you effect you. I really struggle with this. I’m pretty good at this sport, so my friends think that I’m good at this sport. But I haven’t been playing lately, so I’m not as good as they expect me to be. When my reality doesn’t match their expectations, they feel obligated to say something. If I let my current reality inherit their expectations, I’ll be unhappy with my play. But if I can accept my current reality, I can embrace each match and still have fun.

The moral of the story: dream big, expect nothing, be grateful, hope for the best, and don’t let anyone else’s expectations become your own. Every time you compare reality to expectations you will be disappointed, so just don’t do it.

Expect the world, and you’ll find disappointment. Expect the worst, and you’ll find worries. Expect nothing, and you’ll find everything.