I want to start by saying this definitely doesn’t come easily to me. I am very tough on myself, my mind is constantly whirring about what I need to do and why I haven’t done it yet – both on the day to day stuff but also on long term goals and aspirations.
I was listening to a recording by Mel Robbins (check out her 5 second rule) where she does personal coaching sessions with willing applicants. They are obviously chosen because their situations are reasonably common and easy to relate to. But I still find it fascinating to think that we all have that annoying voice in our head that is chastising us for not going on that run, for eating that piece of cake or for not getting that paperwork done, for not getting that promotion, for not being present with your children…
I think that many of us, most of the time, feel like we are doing a very average job, just scraping by, but often we have many much higher aspirations for oursleves.
That is certainly how I feel if I let the voice in my head run away with itself.
I’ve done quite a lot of work on this for myself so want to write this post to get my thoughts in order and hopefully you will be able to relate and might even find it helpful.
Where do we get our expectations from?
This is a big one – are the expectations of what you should be doing, where you should be working, living, who you should be loving, coming from you or from someone else?
There are the obvious sources of expectation like parental pressure to follow a certain career path, live somewhere in particular or even who to marry and when to have children. Or the less conscious ones of peers, media and society in general all of whom constantly apply certain types of expectations on us.
Where do we get the expectation that money is so important and we should all work hard to get as much money as possible – to do what? Of course in our society bartering is not a regularly used payment method so we do all need money to survive. But why do so many of us crave more and more of it – to buy more things, to live a dream life…or is it linked to the recognition that comes with a higher title and more money? That feeling of, dare I say it, “superiority or importance”. Many of us have these desires whether we chose to admit it to others or even ourselves.
For me personally I don’t have obvious external expectations put on me. My parents were always very supportive of the direction I chose (except for forcing me to do Latin in high school….that is another story for which they shall never be forgiven!). The expectations I now place on myself are rooted from school where everything was about creating opportunities, but with that came an immense pressure to make the most of those opportunities and also which opportunity to choose!?
So that brings us to…..
The grass is always greener syndrome
Once you are presented with lots of opportunities then you have to choose; and even once you have chosen, those other opportunities don’t necessarily go away so you can find yourself lamenting the what ifs, buts and maybes…..and the grass is always greener syndrome comes marching in!
There are a few different aspects that we use to torture ourselves…..
We compare ourselves to others
Grass is always greener is commonly associated with comparing yourself to others – more money, more time, more holidays etc etc. We are completely plagued by it because for the first time we can see into so many people’s lives up close through social media. Most of what we see is the good stuff – people showing off without realising it – ok so some are just gloating!
Oh, how rosy everything looks on Instagram but when people post how they are really feeling everyone is a bit shell shocked and concerned. I have friends reaching out and asking if I am ok…well I think I am, life is pretty good actually but as we all do, I have voices of dissatisfaction in my head and I think it is important to share some of these on social media so people get a glimpse of the other side of the coin.
We have so many options we are never satisfied
It may not feel like this but really we do. So many things are much much easier than for our parents generation. Some choices that were not considered options in the past are now completely possible – being a blogger and working from a beach in Thailand….(not me by the way!)
With options and choices we constantly find ourselves wondering if we could be better off somewhere else, doing something else or with someone else – we are easily dissatisfied. In fact I think many of us live in a constant state of dissatisfaction.
We feel time is constantly running out
Time pressure is common place in our lives today. We have so many tools that help us save time but we feel busier than ever. We try to pack so much in that we are not happy with any of it.
I don’t know if you feel it but I certainly do – this overwhelming sense of time pressure. Carpe Diem – don’t waste time, – “the world is your oyster” – make the most of it.
One overwhelming time pressure is to do with having babies and if, like me, you have the added pressure of trouble conceiving you can end up living completely in the future, tieing yourself up in knots. I talked about some strategies to combat this in my post on how to cope with infertility.
Whilst I do believe that we should all make the most of our time by working out what is truly important to us and spending time wisely, there is always more that I want to be doing – I find it difficult to manage my own expectations of what is realistic so there is a constant feeling of not enough time.
We want to be EXTRAordinary
The final thing that plagues us is that feeling that we should all be different, extraordinary, we should all leave a lasting legacy. We are no longer just here to live, we need to achieve. Our lives should be adventurous, thrilling, and hugely successful. And when they’re not turning out that way? We become depressed. We want more. We get “grass is greener” syndrome.
Why grass is never greener
Ultimately there is only ONE you. No one else’s situation or circumstance can ever be the same as yours. And things are always relative, so you may think you want something but when you get it you realise it isn’t what you expected or it doesn’t fill the gap that you were hoping it to fill. I’ve definitely had this, in fact I used to have a chronic problem with this – never satisfied even after achieving exactly what I had set out to…
I truly believe the only way to be satisfied, is to take your time, work out how and why and make your choice. Don’t expect anything to be easy.
You have to choose and then you have to commit and work at it. If I look back objectively I think that the times I have really achieved are when I committed and stuck to something.
So, be kind to yourself
Life is not about benchmarking yourself or achieving more. It is also about who you are with, the moments of laughter, of silliness and of joy.
This is not easy but whenever I feel myself loosing focus or wondering about what is next, I try to bring myself back to now and look at where I am at vs. 2 years ago. What I did to achieve that and remember that if I put my mind to it, it can be done.
I also try to take a moment to notice what is happening right now, to take it in. I remind myself that happiness is a state of mind. No matter what is going on you can control your happiness.
My current plan to keep my satisfaction on track & in check
– Make some time for myself each morning – even if it is 5 mins with a journal
– Plan my week with goals and downtime & review them
– Spend time each day with my daughter completely undistracted
– Write a gratefulness journal at night
– Persistantly and patiently banish those self-limiting thoughts of dissatisfaction & focus on committing to the plan
I am going to be completely honest – how to be satisfied with life is not easy, it is something I still struggle with and I am on a constant quest to improve!
There are many aspects of my life that I am very satisfied with but there are others that constantly weigh on my mind.
Starting my own business is a step in the right direction – in the past I have definitely held myself back because I was afraid of doing something that wasn’t extraordinary.
I feel the pressure of time, of getting older, of not having achieved enough or missing the opportunity or the window.
But I know that it is never too late. If you make a plan and commit to it, step by step you will create a real sense of achievement which in turn will lead to a truly satisfying life.