Are you getting what you expect out of life? And if not, how do you behave when you’re disappointed?
My wife and I have just moved back to Japan after living six years in Thailand. Now, I’ve eaten and enjoyed Thai food for years, but being in the source-country of all that goodness did bring me a few surprises.
Take milk for example. My first trip to the grocery in Thailand, I picked up a liter of milk. Returning home, I poured myself a glass and was surprised to find it heavily sweetened.
And a couple of days later, at a local eatery, we ordered a pizza that looked absolutely delicious. But it was… well… different.
And this all started me thinking about what we do when something unexpectedly differs from our expectations.
In the case of the milk, I just stepped back, re-evaluated what was in my glass, and since it wasn’t bad — just different — I went ahead with the sweetened drink. I didn’t buy it again, but it certainly wasn’t a disaster of any kind.
Likewise, when I hit the unexpected pizza taste, I paused, thought it over, and decided it was not close enough to what I wanted. Rather than the traditional tomato sauce it was filled with something like an extra-sweet barbecue sauce, and I didn’t eat more than a single bite… just left the whole pizza sitting there. It wasn’t something I wanted to eat, but that’s all it amounted to. Again, no disaster; just an event.
In one case I adjusted my expectations and in the other I did not. But in neither case did I get upset, angry or disturbed. These experiences are all merely a part of being an expat — a sojourner in someone else’s home country.
Remember the old saying, “travel broadens one”? It’s true, and it’s because the longer you’re away from your home culture the more of those unexpected growth experiences you’ll run into, and thus the more unflappable you’ll become.
SO HOW DO YOU HANDLE DISAPPOINTMENT?
I grew up in Chicago. You’ve probably heard it called the Windy City, and it is that. It’s also quite cold and snowy during the winter months.
Now, just a few seconds of rational thought will tell you that of course wintertime in Chicago is going to be cold. That’s just a natural fact. But for some reason, I grew up taking all that cold weather as a personal affront. And the funny thing is, I didn’t even realize what I was doing. Apparently I was assuming that reality was — somehow — trying to insult me. And that it shouldn’t.
This suggests that I had a particular belief in my head — a belief that reality should not be causing me all those disappointments and inconveniences.
Right about now you may be thinking that I was just slightly wacko back then. And you’d be right. I was in denial and mildly out of touch with reality (or wishing to be). A more serious case involving symptoms like these could be called paranoia… the old “life has it in for me” pattern.
Fortunately, most garden-variety cases like this are just a matter of inaccurate thinking habits. Change the thinking, and you change “how life treats you.” I’ll come back to this point in a moment.
So the question is, how do YOU handle disappointments? When things don’t happen the way you’re expecting, do you act hurt? Get angry? Resent what has happened to you?
Think carefully about this question because, if you do these things, you’re actively denying reality, and keeping yourself out of touch with it.
Here are a few things you can watch for within yourself:
- What feelings do you have when you get three or four red traffic lights in a row?
- When you ask someone for a simple favor and are refused, what is your reaction?
- If the boss gives you an “unfair” share of the workload, what comes up for you?
- Do you feel disrespected if the person entering a store in front of you lets a door close in your face rather than holding it open for you?
- Today is your day off, and it’s raining — again. Do you feel mistreated?
This is not a quiz. You don’t need to answer the questions right now. Instead, just keep them rolling around in your mind and watch your reactions to life situations over the next few days. Notice what your real-life responses are.
If you discover feelings of frustration, or even anger, when you’re thwarted by circumstances, relax. you’re just being human.
Presumably, it’s only enlightened beings and saints who are never troubled by such “negative” emotions.
On the other hand, from a purely practical standpoint it’s useful to experience more “positive” reactions to the events in your life.
THE POWER OF POSITIVE RESPONSES
Let’s take a couple of the examples I’ve already mentioned.
If the weather causes you inconvenience, you can take it personally like I used to do, or you can accept it as a fact of life and stop wasting so much energy resenting what you can’t change. Anytime you feel resentment, you’re CHOOSING to feel powerless, to keep yourself in a place of no power, obsessing over the idea that things are not as you want them to be (which may be true), and reinforcing your belief that there’s nothing you can do (which is absolutely not true).
Actually, there’s a lot you could do. You could take up a winter sport and learn to enjoy the cold weather. You could dress warmer. You could exercise more, thus improving your circulation and boosting your metabolism. Or you could do what I’ve done and move to a warmer place.
With foods that don’t taste like you thought they would, you don’t HAVE to rail and complain and turn it into the drama of the ages. Complaining is an action that tells the world (and your own subconscious mind) that “I’m powerless to change my mind — I can only gripe and be petty about things.”
But consider: you COULD recognize that the food is simply the way it is, and that you could either adjust your expectations and enjoy what you have, or you could set it aside and eat something else.
Everything in this world has aspects that are useful to us and other aspects that are not. The useful aspects we call “good” and the inconvenient aspects we call “bad.” But notice that when we label anything good or bad, we’re simply expressing our own personal opinion about it. If we make an effort to adjust our opinion, the label changes (though not the intrinsic value).
When I was a child, I couldn’t eat spicy foods. Even a tiny dot of yellow mustard was so “hot” that I couldn’t stand it. But over the years my tastes changed, and now I glady eat Indian, Thai, or Mexican food — all sorts of hot, spicy dishes. What changed? The food? Nope, only my attitude about the food. And so my experience changed.
THE REAL SECRET OF CHANGE
Pay particularly close attention here. There will be NO change in your experience without first a change in your attitude.
But you already know that we mostly don’t do that. Instead we often — very often get it backwards. We walk around wanting the world to change so that THEN we can be happier.
But life has a funny habit of not working that way.
Ever try to use the Law of Attraction to make life change what it’s bringing you? Has it ever “not worked” for you?
Most (and possibly all) of the people who complain that the Law of Attraction doesn’t work for them are going about it ass-backwards. They’re unhappy with the way things are going, so they try to attract new experiences without ever addressing their own attitudes of unhappiness and dissatisfaction.
They’re demanding that life do all the changing, never thinking that maybe — just maybe — they ought to be meeting life halfway… much like a childish and self-centered co-worker might do.
As long as they go about it like that, the Law of Attraction WON’T work for them because that’s not how the Law is set up.
The Law only functions when we work on the attitude side of the equation. Fortunately, it’s much easier once you start using the Law correctly.
If you’ll take a little time to re-examine all those things that have been causing you disappointment, frustration and despair, you’ll find that each one of them has other sides to them — interesting sides that can bring you powerfully positive experiences instead of the negatives you’ve been putting yourself through.
That’s the basic secret of the saints and enlightened beings. That’s how they get release from THEIR “negative” emotions. They don’t fight ‘em and they don’t resist ‘em. When something surprises them, they’re ready to adjust their expectations (their attitude) if necessary. They learn to look for the positive side of EVERYTHING that happens.
And THEN the Law of Attraction kicks into effect. THEN the struggle automatically disappears out of life, all by itself.
Notice I said it’s the STRUGGLE that goes away. Effort is still involved, but it’s enjoyable, satisfying and fulfilling effort. Life becomes a kind of constant play.
And that’s the REAL Secret behind that famous Law of Attraction.
Cheers from sunny Japan,