I used to feel disappointed every single day.
I’d get up somewhere in the afternoon, put my favorite record on, make myself some cocktails and get in a great mood. Then I’d start to go about my day and something would happen that threw me off. Every single time.
In response, I’d damn the whole day to hell and continue living like a powerless victim of circumstances.
Later, I slowly started to realize that disappointment wasn’t my favorite emotion (who’d have thought? ? ). And that it would be much more beneficial to assume I was the one responsible for making myself disappointed than to put the blame on outside circumstances.
I was seeing someone who lived in a different city from me. Sometimes I’d take the last train to get to her and she’d text me something that made me look forward to it.
But by the time I arrived, she was already tired and we’d spend the night sleeping or watching series instead. It always made me feel bad because the whole train ride / walk to her place I was already thinking about how awesome it would be. (To be completely fair here, it went the other way as well. I often got her hopes up and then disappointed her myself.)
After a while this seemed to become a habit. I’d look forward to the night with her but then I’d end up disappointing myself. So I started to look for the exact process in my head this caused it.
I realized that I was setting myself up for disappointment by creating a specific image in my head and then expecting the actual night to turn out the same.
This was my conclusion at the time:
The key to not being disappointed anymore was to stop having high expectations from people or situations that could get violated.
But while that worked (I was never disappointed anymore and was sometimes pleasantly surprised with things), it also took a lot of the fun out of my life.
For starters, it also lowered my standards dramatically. In the above example, I would now go to meet with her with the only expectation that I’d see her and we’d cuddle or watch television. Anything else was now a bonus. Of course when you have that mindset, you start initiating less fun stuff as well, and you become the one making it boring because you’re less proactive.
More importantly, it can be really fun to look forward to something and get all excited in your head like a little kid.
It can even have a positive impact on the moment itself because it puts you in the right state of joy that will make the experience better.
It’s much more fun to arrive at a party excited, injecting everyone you meet with a nice big dose of fun than to show up thinking:
“Well, this will be boring but I’m okay with that. And if it turns out to be cool that would be kinda nice. Probably not though. Don’t want to spoil it by overhyping it.”
That would just make you the eeyore of the gang.
So I raised my standards again. Life’s too short to not enjoy it as much as possible.
Flash forward a couple of years: Last weekend I was looking forward to a party, but as the day progressed I started feeling more and more like staying home and having some quality time with my girlfriend. Oncewe were all settled and ready to relax though, she fell asleep. (Which is totally understandable, it had been a very busy day and she’d been up since 5AM.)
Even though it was kinda cute, I got very disappointed for the first time in a while. Maybe because it reminded me of the example I gave at the start of this post, I don’t know.
My ego started telling me all kinds of stupid reasons to justify my feelings like “I stayed here for her” and “Now I’m left here bored all night”. But those are just stories our mind makes around a neutral fact.
I stayed inside for myself as much as for her. She is not responsible for my happiness. And I had all the options to do something else. I could’ve tucked her in and gone to the party any way. I could’ve worked all night or played guitar. Those already sound like pretty sweet options.
Instead, I just stayed with her, reading books and watching TV all night while not enjoying myself because I was “disappointed”. Which is was probably the worst option to pick. And I’m not talking about the TV here. But about the “disappointment”. Because doing exactly what I did while feeling her sleep near me could’ve been a very beautiful,romantic moment if I had allowed myself to see it that way.
Over the next few days, lots of disappointed emotions started coming up. Until after a particularly disappointing morning (which tends to happen to people when dealing with bureaucrats ? ), I was riding my bike and thought: “You know what, why should I let these things disappoint me? They weren’t what I wanted, but it’s all perfectly fine the way it is.”
And as that thought crossed my mind, it was as if I could feel a huge boulder getting lifted off my shoulder.
I felt so free and happy again. I realized that all the time I had been wrong about what caused us to become so disappointed.
It’s not about having low or high expectations. In fact, I’ve come to prefer high standards and being naturally excited about things.
It’s just a matter of how attached you are to a specific outcome.
It’s okay to have high expectations. And it’s okay to want to have them fulfilled. The thing is that you just have to remember that the universe doesn’t owe you any fulfillment. You are not entitled to anything just because you want it.
Set the intention to have things turn out as awesome as possible. But let go of any attachment to that same outcome.
This way, you can keep aiming for the best. But when things don’t turn out exactly the way you wanted, remind yourself that it would be arrogant to believe they were supposed to in the first place. Then make the best of what reality has to offer at that moment.
Because there’s always something beautiful to make of it. As long as you don’t blind yourself to it by focusing on one particular thing that is not happening.