Is My Happiness Hiding Somewhere?

The Same Wrong Turn Every Time

Judy was crying … again. After breaking up with her latest boyfriend, she was weeping uncontrollably. Crying over a broken romance would usually be normal behavior, except this was her seventh goodbye in the past thirteen months.

The pattern was always the same. Judy would come round with her latest new romantic interest, showing him off, and telling her best friends privately that she’d finally found “him,” the one she’d been looking for all her life.

Then, before a month was out, her euphoria would begin dissipating, the smiles wreathing her face would moderate, and the new “him” would become “oh, him.”

This time was no different. Within two months Judy had reevaluated his worth, and she’d “had to leave” him. Thus, the tears.

Judy is not alone in this pattern, however.

Look around and you’ll see people for whom:

  • Every new job quickly becomes a boring deadend
  • One after another promising leader fizzles out
  • Each new hobby gradually loses its fascination
  • A procession of friends all disappoint and depart
  • Happiness is always somewhere else

Everyone has occasional disappointments in life.

New projects, new friends or new enthusiasms are sometimes not what we expected (or not what they represented themselves to be), and we end up kicking ourselves for poor judgment.

Most of us, however, learn from our mistakes. We either extricate ourselves from the bad choice and walk away, or we find a way to fix it and make it work better. These are normal, healthy reactions to disappointment.

But what if you walk into every situation expecting the sun, moon and stars, with half of heaven thrown in?

Since there are few jobs, romantic partners, hobbies or leaders that can fulfill such high expectations, disappointment is inevitable.

Some people seem to live in an unending stream of such disappointments.

Healthy people will recognize when their own excessive expectations are repeatedly causing let-downs and disappointments.

Others, though, are not capable of seeing that they may be the victims of their own overly rosy hopes. And they continue to rush forward, making one new unwise choice after another, drawn to their own over-drawn expectations, and unable to stop themselves

If you feel you’re getting more than your fair share of lousy breaks in life, here’s a five-step formula you can use to find the cause then correct it.

1. List your disappointments

Make a list of the people or relationships that have gone wrong for you during the past year. You can go farther back if you want to, but make sure this is not just an exercise in self-pity. One year’s worth is usually plenty.

Do you consistently enter a new relationship with hopes that it will rescue you, that it will save you from the unpredictable fates that have been playing with you for so long? That it will hand you peace, love or power, and that you won’t have to earn it?

We’re looking for consistently repeated patterns here. Do you expect a new:

  • LOVE to rescue you from heartbreak and loneliness?
  • LEADER to change the world?
  • SPIRITUAL TEACHER to change your life for you?
  • JOB to fill your life with meaning?

… but then you meet disappointment time after time?

This first step takes a fair amount of honesty. You may have been promising yourself for years that someday there’ll be someone or something that will hand you the happiness you want.

Or somebody in your life will finally change so that you can now be happy.

If so, it’ll take a little courage to look past your usual thinking habits.

Just look for a repeating pattern.

2. What is the pattern?

Years ago, I worked briefly as manager for a small service company. The interviews went well, but then, following the final hiring interview, one of the three partners took me aside and told me, “We’ve had a lot of trouble finding a good manager who will stay, somebody to save this company. But I think you might be the one.”

That was an “uh-oh” moment for me.

I felt like I was being hired as some kind of savior, and I knew right then that the relationship wouldn’t last. I soon discovered that all three partners had unrealistic expectations which radiated to me and every person they ever hired.

They went through managers and office workers like wildfire, and I was privileged to be one of them. I learned from that experience how to quickly spot when others have too-high expectations, and I also learned it’s better to make a fast getaway as soon as you see them coming your way.

Now … do you ever have people develop that same kind of eagerness to get away from you? This may be what causes it.

On the other hand, you may be the one who’s setting others up on a pedestal only to discover that they’re all too human. In those cases, it may be you who is tiring of them and leaving.

In either case, it’s a matter of expecting too much from a mere mortal, then turning against them bitterly when they display their human side.

Here’s what to look for: a lover, a leader, a teacher, a job, a friend, or an organization that you think will totally change your life, then they let you down.

If this has happened occasionally in the past, that’s probably not a pattern. But if the same kind of thing happens again and again, you may have to face the fact that you’re probably running the pattern we’re talking about here.

3. Take responsibility

Taking responsibility has nothing to do with being at fault.

Things that have gone wrong in your life may or may not be your fault… but they are ALWAYS your responsibility.

You’re the one who was given this life. It’s yours to live.

Unfortunately, you were not given a clear, understandable user manual. You’ve had to flounder around learning stuff as you go, and many times, you felt like you were thrown into the deep end before you could swim, and there you have remained.

Sure, most people feel that way sometimes. That happens.

But it’s possible to learn from our mistakes. In fact, I don’t really care for the word “mistake” because it carries a lot of negative connotations.

Nevertheless, that’s the word we use, so let’s see what we can do about “mistakes.”

Say I’m crossing a street, and a car runs a red light and hits me. Legally, you could say it’s the driver’s fault, not mine.

On the other hand, if I had been looking alertly in every direction as I crossed the street, I’d have been much less likely to be hit. I don’t have to leave my safety to other people. I should be looking out for it myself.

That’s the difference between fault and responsibility.

This same principle applies in every single thing you do in life. It’s not necessary to become a frightened mouse who spends every moment peering over his shoulder.

Lots of normal, mentally healthy people cross busy streets every day without being hit, and without ever descending into watchful, twitching terror. So it can obviously be done from a position of confidence instead of fear.

This is the attitude we want to develop. A level of heightened awareness of all that’s happening in our relationships and activities, and the confidence that we can either handle or step out of the way of anything that comes.

4. First, make only one small change

You may find a repeating pattern of disappointment, or you may already be well aware of it. But what do you do about it? What do you change?

Do This:

The next time you find yourself being drawn in fascination to one of those doomed situations, take notes. Your new awareness may give you the pause you need to step back and stop yourself from rushing forward. If so, write it down in a little notebook. This interrupts the flow of the pattern for a moment, and gives you just enough breathing room to change something.

Sometimes, however, even if we pause to take notes, these reactions of ours are almost like compulsions or addictions. They may be hard to stop when we’re in the passion of compulsion.

If you find yourself being drawn forward, even against your better judgment, remember that irrational hopes are like a drug. Or like a drink to an alcoholic.

Here’s an NLP skill you’ll find invaluable.

It’s called moving pictures. Every person has a “mental filing system” where they store their thoughts and images for quick reference. For example, all the things you like will be mentally stored in one area of your thinking space. This is usually represented as a place out in front of you somewhere.

Take a person you like a lot, or somebody you love. When you think of them, where are they in your mental space? Are they directly in front of you, or off to the side a bit? If you put your hand out as though you’re going to touch them, where do you reach? That’s where you mentally store the things you like.

You’ll also have a storage place for the things you don’t like. Think of someone you dislike, or a food you hate to eat. If you could reach out and touch it, where would it be? That’s your storage place for the stuff you can’t stand.

Now take that new person or situation that’s drawing you forward so helplessly. If you want to reduce their influence on you, reach out with your mental hands, and imagine mentally moving your image of them to the place where you keep the stuff you don’t like.

Within minutes, or even within seconds, this can diminish their influence on you. To reduce it even further, imagine that you have a light dimmer knob on a control panel. As you turn the dimmer knob down, watch the image grow darker and harder to see. Make it as dark and unnoticable as you can. This will reduce its hold on you remarkably.

Try this … Yes, I know it sounds a bit silly and childish, but it’s incredibly powerful.

5. Repeat and expand

You have just exercised control over something that yesterday was beyond your ability to influence. You have taken responsibility and begun a process of change.

Naturally, since this is a new skill, it may take a while before it becomes second nature. Like anything else, the more you practice it, the more effortless it’ll become. Just knowing about it is not enough; you’re going to have to do it.

So just repeat it. Use it every time you think of it.

Is there a fattening food you have trouble resisting? Move its picture and dim it down. Or maybe you’re repeatedly drawn into unwise relationships. Same thing – move them where you’re keeping the unwanted images, then turn the lights down in them.

On the other hand, is there something you’d like to turn into a stronger habit? Maybe you’d like to enjoy being on time for work every day, or speaking in public, or eating more healthful foods.

Yep, you can change those things too.

Just imagine moving their pictures. Put them wih the things you like, then brighten them up. The rest is almost automatic.

All you have to do is keep repeating this operation with everything in your life. Give yourself more of what you really do want, and less of the things that are harmful to you. That’s taking responsibility.

Instead of eternally chasing satisfaction, or being lured into one disappointing new misadventure after another, you will find that satisfaction, joy and love are right there in your mental filing system, right where you put them.

And your happiness can finally come out of hiding.