Why you should adjust your lens on life to feel happier.

The words “life is in session” came from a movie that I watched over the holiday weekend. The words have been stuck in my mind since. I had been thinking about expectations and how having expectations can affect our experience of the holidays. However, the words made me start thinking more broadly about life because for many including me, the holidays are also a time of reflection and goal setting.

What are Expectations?

Expectations are a strong belief that something will happen or be achieved in the future. We all live with expectations or strong beliefs about what we want to achieve, experience and do with our lives and feel disappointment when our reality and our expectations don’t match up.

The holidays have a way of magnifying our feelings because we have so many expectations of ourselves, others and the whole holiday experience. For one reason or another many will feel disappointed this holiday season.

Fortunately, you can control how you feel about the holidays and your life by adjusting your lens, experience and goals.

Adjust your lens.

I celebrated Thanksgiving with friends again this year rather than family. For some reason the dinner is commonly referred to as the “orphan dinner” which used to make me feel really sad. Every year it reminded me that I had failed to find a mate and create my own family. Can you imagine how it might feel starting every holiday season with feelings of failure?

Thankfully I’ve adjusted my perspective [or lens]. The dinner is no longer a symbol of failure for me but rather a celebration of friendship. I feel lucky to have so many friends to share the holidays with and to be included in their celebration. I came home this year feeling grateful and happy.

There is an old adage about lowering your expectations to realize more happiness. Before you lower your expectations, you might want to try adjusting your lens. See your glass as half full rather than half empty.

Choose your experience.

I used to spend a lot of time shopping for the perfect gifts and never seemed to get it right. Now I think about shared experiences and ways to make the experience special.

Experiences don’t have to be extravagant to be special. The new San Francisco MOMA opened recently. It’s on my list of things to do and fortunately, on the list of a long time friend too. So to celebrate the holidays we’re going to see an exhibit followed by lunch in the new restaurant, In Situ. If you haven’t heard, In Situ curates the best dishes from chefs all over the world including some well known local chefs like Thomas Keller from the French Laundry.

There are a lot of societal norms telling us how and when to celebrate the holidays. Rather than using them as a benchmark for happiness, pick the ones that work for you and experience them in a way that makes you happy.

Reflect on your life and goals.

I was delighted to discover an article recently that compared and contrasted Type A and B personalities.

For lack of a better description, I’ve been telling people that I am a A- or B+. I don’t have the intensity that is characteristic of the type A personality. Some may have mistakenly interpreted my description as meaning lesser than an A rather than just different. Type Bs are just as goal oriented but pursue their goals more quietly and methodically than As (kind of like hare vs. turtle). They may also alter the course to reach the goal if something isn’t working whereas As are more likely to stay their course.

So before you judge yourself too harshly or succumb to an unflattering comparison, consider your personality. Then review your goals and evaluate past actions — what worked, what didn’t work and what might work better for you. Remember the tortoise often wins the race so take your time and figure it out.

To get the most out of this session [your life] you might also want to revisit Strength Finder to make sure your plan whether business or life leverages all of your strengths and your personality.

Quick dose of happiness:

If you’re feeling a little blue over the holidays or any time, take some time to get a little fresh air, sunshine and exercise. Reportedly, the combination makes people happy even when life feels like a bitch.

Happy Holidays!


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