There is nothing more aggravating than seeing someone you care about settling for less than they deserve; except perhaps watching them miss out on happiness because they aren’t willing to be happy with their “lot.”
Many people miss out on happiness because they don’t know their own worth. They settle for relationships that don’t come close to fulfilling them with people that God never would match them with. They won’t move on because they fear they can’t find anyone else or don’t deserve anything better.
But here’s the truth: Just as many people, if not more, miss out on happiness because although they have most of the ingredients for a happy life, they don’t allow themselves to enjoy it. Often they can see that everything looks fine in their lives, but something is holding them back, keeping them from loving their lot.
I am not talking about depression or other mental and emotional health issues that impact our ability to be happy. I am talking about healthy individuals who realize that they kind of have it “all”, but in their hearts, long for something else.
So what keeps us from being happy when the ingredients for happiness are (for the most part) present in our lives?
Unrealistic expectations—We can have ideas of what life is supposed to be like: Where we should be in our careers, what kind of mate we deserve, what our friends should do for us, etc. But how healthy and useful is an expectation what leaves us feeling perpetually disappointed?
Instead—We need to check our expectations against the Word of God. What has He actually promised us? Did He ever tell us life would be easy or that we would always have our way? Certainly not. So why are we thinking that we should? We have to replace our ideas of what we “deserve” against what God has promised.
Outdated dreams—We can have our hearts set on a dream we latched onto years ago. Often our lives look like a far cry from our dreams! I imagined myself a great many things, to include being a famous actress. How helpful would it be for me to compare my current life of laundry and spider web removal to the life of Angelina Jolie? Dreams have a place in our future, but past dreams have no place in our present.
Instead—Get a new dream. There is always life left to live! Instead of focusing with regret on what you didn’t accomplish, find a new goal. Consider goals that challenge you like climbing to the top of the rock wall at the local climbing gym; take flying lessons, take up running, or challenge yourself to read all the Harry Potter books this year. It’s not what you do; it’s the spirit with which you do it. Start looking for ways to create your own adventure.
Expectations from others—Your mom said you should have been a doctor? Your dad said you should’ve married a doctor? It is painful to live below the dreams and standards of our parents or to disappoint those whose approval we desire. This can create a sense of failure and a lack of self-confidence and can actually be more discouraging than motivating, keeping us from accepting new challenges.
Instead—Release yourself from the bondage of the expectations of others. If this task seems too daunting, it may be time for counseling. We must come to the point as adults that we can allow ourselves permission to cast our own vision for our lives and define happiness for ourselves (with Scripture as a guide). This is a time for prayer, journaling and godly counsel, but it must happen if you want to have a solid chance at peace and joy.
A lack of gratitude—Sometimes our lack of happiness is directly related to our own negative attitudes. We look at what we don’t have rather than what we do have. We compare our failures to the successes of others. We think the careers, talents, spouses and children of our peers outshine ours. And we live in misery because of it.
Instead—Choose gratitude over envy. Instead of complaining, choose praising. Consider taking The 30-Day No Complaining Challenge. When forced to face the hard truth, it can be painfully evident that we invite negativity into our lives by our response to life’s events. And when we choose not to complain, we are forced to either reflect on something worthwhile or change our verbal script. This is a game changer when we let it be.
Unforgiveness—In relationships, there is always a reason to be mad and stay mad if we want to. Sometimes we stay mad at our loved ones for things that happened years ago, yet we wonder why our lives are void of joy. Happiness cannot grow where there is no sun to shine on it, and unforgiveness casts a very large shadow.
Instead—Make a decision. Do you want to be right and indignant about it, or do you want to be happy? I can assure you, you cannot have both! If you really want to love your life, be willing to free yourself from the bondage of unforgiveness. Again, if you cannot do this alone, consider counseling to help you through the process.
Perfectionism—I saved the best for last. Sometimes, we get it in our heads that things could always be just a little bit better. The house could be cleaner, the wife could be a better listener, the hubby could be more romantic, the kids could make better grades, the best friend could call more… you get the idea. Perfectionism is a tangled jungle of things you or your friends and family could have or should have done better. And it’s a hard jungle to find our way out of once we get lost in it!
Instead—STOP. Bite your tongue, change your dialogue, pray harder than ever, and stop upping the ante for yourself and your family, friends, etc. Those who can never be satisfied will never be satisfied. And the worst part is, we do this to ourselves. Try these tricks:
Simply changing your response to everyday occurrences is often the first step to creating a happy life.
There are times when we are settling and there are times when we don’t know how great we have it. And we don’t know how much we hurt those around us when we refuse to count the blessings they bring to our lives. Even worse, we make ourselves even unhappier with our lack of intentional gratitude.
Happiness is not in the circumstances, but in our decision to accept, with certain maturity, that we can choose to enjoy our lives. We can wake up with an intention of searching out joy and even creating it whenever possible.
Is it time to have a talk with your spouse or family, and let them know that you are willing to allow happiness in your life? Is it time to take a stand against complaining, criticizing and perfectionism? Is it time to let the old ideas of what could’ve been die so you can bury them and bring a new dream to life? What are you taking for granted while you are obsessing over what could be?
It’s time to make a choice: You could spend your days dreaming of the life you could have had or the life you think you deserve, or you can spend your life thanking God for your blessings, and loving the life you have.
Will you choose to love your lot?
Kris Wolfe is a Christian, wife and mother. She is a freelance writer who focuses on spiritual and practical encouragement, writes lessons for small group purposes for churches, and is also a small group coach. Kris has a master’s degree in Biblical Counseling from Luther Rice University and Seminary and is a listed TN Supreme Court Rule 31 Mediator.
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