I’ve carried this scrap of paper in my wallet for countless years. Whenever I have a quiet moment I take it out and look at it. I perfectly know what it says. But I just need to see it in writing.
Written on it are the 5 simple rules for happiness.
This tiny piece of paper helped me through many downs, and kept me grounded through ups.
But now it doesn’t seem to work anymore. It’s broken, somehow.
Did that already happen to you? You carry a quote, a saying, anything, refer to it for years, and suddenly it seems flawed?
I’m in trouble because of #4 and #5.
Giving is a wonderful concept – but it’s not everything. At one point you need to think of a healthy amount of “taking”. Sometimes it seems that in this world everyone has become a “taker”. But for some people, unexpectedly, taking is really hard. When I started teaching yoga I always wanted to give more. I didn’t sell myself really well. What I charged per session (including preparation time, minus public transport) worked out as below minimum wage. I loved teaching so I kept going. Until I was so worn out that I stopped. I stopped because I was depleted, but also too afraid to charge more (much, much later I did – but that’s another story). I wanted to Give More. But the rule just didn’t serve me well over time.
It took a long time until I understood that you can only give energy if there’s some left for you in the end. I understood this about money (you can only spend what you have) but not about energy and other non-material “things”.
I was also expecting less. It’s easy. You won’t be disappointed. Disappointment makes unhappy, and if you avoid that, well, your chances of being happy are higher, right?
However, I believe in many circumstances we need to expect more. We need to expect being treated fairly. The food to contain what it says on the label. Being safe when walking in the street at night. Being treated with consideration when ill. The government to implement the will of the people.
True, if we don’t expect anything, and then we don’t get anything, we’ll still be okay. We didn’t expect anything after all, right? So everything is fine?
But what if we keep lowering our expectations until we hit rock bottom?
I believe it’s totally fine to expect certain things (and to assume that others expect the same of us). And if things don’t turn out the way we were hoping for, I believe we can (should?) learn how to live with disappointment, and how to use disappointment as a catalyst for change.
Is constantly expecting less not just the armour that shields us from any kind of disappointment?