Back in 2009 I remember watching an ABC special about Michael J. Fox called Adventures of an Incurable Optimist. I was glued to the screen as I witnessed this Hollywood icon, diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease some 20 years before, travel the world, interviewing people from all walks of life in search of the answer to one important question: Are some people just more optimistic than others? And if so, why?
One thing Fox said really struck me. So much so that I still remember it eight years later: “Your happiness,” he said, “grows in direct proportion to your acceptance and in inverse proportion to your expectations.”
Which got me wondering: would we all be happy, then, if we simply stopped expecting things?
From each other? From the world? From God?
Would we feel more joy if we could release the notion that we were entitled to anything?
Would we be more content if we could see our blessings for the gifts they are, instead of some unspoken universal debt that is owed us?
Would our days be filled with more love and gratitude if we understood that nothing is guaranteed— not love, not time, not health, not money, not success, not even happiness, itself?
“Expectations are resentments waiting to happen,” Anne Lamott wrote. Which means, when it comes to cultivating a life of contentment, peace and even joy– acceptance is the key. The missing link. The secret sauce. And If we’re not living the kind of happy, fulfilled lives we want to live, that could very well be because our expectation levels are out of whack.
So today, friends, every time we catch ourselves expecting something over which we have no control, let’s, instead, try accepting our situation for whatever it is. Let’s work to cultivate our own stubborn gladness, smack dab in the middle of life’s uncertainty and impermanence. Let’s find a way to anchor ourselves to something deeper and more lasting than our circumstances.
Because as counterintuitive as it may seem, true and abiding happiness isn’t found in any of the joy-filled moments we seek, but rather, in the acceptance of our own pain.