Friend, right off the bat, I want to ask you, “How are you experiencing your life?”
I heard someone say this the other day and it blew my mind…and really got me thinking about my own life. She said, “The way you experience life is all in your thinking.”
The funny thing is, I know this to be true. All of the ways we experience life is formulated from the way we think. But I didn’t stop to consider SPECIFIC events in my life and how I was thinking about them.
So I spent some time analyzing my own particular circumstances: How am I thinking about being a single, middle aged woman? How am I thinking about being a widow? How am I thinking about celebrating holidays? How am I thinking about…well, everything. I certainly have an opinion or a preference about things.
So the way we experience our lives starts in how we think about everything we encounter, or come up against, or even participate in. AND, what we think a good life should look like. Preferences are not a bad thing in and of themselves. It’s when we make our preferences our expectations, when we become rigid. Making your preferences the end-all-be-all, that is, making something of the utmost importance that it is absolutely essential and vital in your eyes as your main concern and focus for a good life, a good relationship, a good experience will disappoint you 99% of the time. There’s a French expression raison d’être that is synonymous with this idiom which Merriam -Webster defines as “reason or justification for existence.” In other words, your preference is so important to you, and it’s the reason you live and breathe.
Listen, if you put that much weight on your personal preferences you are going to live a miserable life!
I’ve always believed that expectations and assumptions were two of the deadliest nouns. And now I’ll add “rigid preferences,” raison d’être to this little group of “good life” killers.
Yep, expectations, assumptions, and preferences all come from your thinking, and can hinder any possibility of experiencing a good life.
We all have preferences of how we’d like things to go. For example, we might say, “A perfect Christmas with the family will look like this and this. That’s what will make it perfect. A beautiful experience.”
Okay, so let me make that personal. A perfect Christmas with the family will look like having all my children and their spouses at my house on Christmas morning, an afternoon of fun games, lots of laughter, maybe a nap or a walk together, and then a quiet evening drinking egg nog and watching all the Christmas movies. That’s what will make it perfect.”
Now, someone might think: My relationship with my significant other is only a real, rich, solid one if we do this and this, and never do this and this.
Or you might say, “A great experience at a restaurant will include this and this…but not this and this.”
But what happens when (and I’ll just bring this back to my personal experience) your son and dil don’t come over for Christmas because they live overseas? And your other son and dil who live out of state came for Thanksgiving but can’t make it back for Christmas. It’s no longer a beautiful experience because with your preferences, you’ve already set the expectations of what it would look like. Anything less than ruins your experience of a perfect Christmas day.
What about relationships? I would venture to guess that preferences and expectations, AND assumptions are the cause of most relationship strife. I talked about assumptions in Episode number 27 - What’s Love Got To Do With It? I think assumptions get in our way of experiencing a good, full, rich life, as well. And assumptions are just thoughts we have about something or someone.
Making assumptions is not always bad. In fact, it’s our brain’s way of conserving energy by just assuming that we’ve experienced before is true and right today. A good assumption is, for example, I get cold in that particular building every time I go, so I can assume it’ll be cold this time, too. Better bring a jacket. Your brain had to work very little to come to that conclusion, and therefore, was able to conserve some energy in finding an answer or solution.
The problem comes when we tend to assume that the way we view someone or something is the way it is; the way we remember or perceived an event is the way it was; the way we prefer things is the way others should prefer things…and that’s the way it should be.
But, what if there’s an optional thought? What if we opened our hearts and minds a bit to the possibility that the way we prefer something or have expectations about someone or someone may not be the end-all-be-all, and maybe we discover what else could be true and right?
So, for your life and ALL that you experience in it, what if you just decided that a perfect whatever - day, relationship, dinner out, job - was all in the way you thought about it, and then determined to think in a way that made those experiences better - and even enjoyable? What if you just decided?
Recently, my daughter and I went to one of our favorite Mexican restaurants. This location was previously a different restaurant, and the Mexican restaurant took its place. So the layout and some of the interior decor were something they inherited. The layout is quite odd, making the restaurant feel like two totally different experiences. One, very crammed, cafeteria style feeling, and the other, very spacious and elegant. Well, you can imagine which side we preferred to sit on. Yep, the crammed, cafeteria side. Noooo! Of course, not. We always asked to be seated where the ceilings were high, there were lots of windows, and the décor was to our liking. It was what we preferred, and it was never a problem to get seated there. Until recently. We went on a Friday night, and everyone else decided it was a great night for Mexican food, too, so we were at the mercy of timing and good fortune to get to sit where we preferred. Sadly, we got seated in the crammed, cafeteria style side. We both did a little groan as we followed the hostess to the table. We are “experience” kind of girls. We like the ambiance. We like attention to design details in the lighting and on the walls. We are sensitive to smell, so we like a Mexican restaurant to smell only like fajitas. We like good company and really good food. And all of that combined makes for the perfect experience. So what happens when things don’t go to your liking? I guess it could ruin your evening, huh? But my daughter and I have both been on a new personal and spiritual development journey. And even though we both had a brief hesitation to embracing the crammed, cafeteria side, we found ourselves having a good time. In fact, in the middle of a conversation, my daughter blurted out, “I’m enjoying this experience. This is good.” “Me too” I said. And I meant it. Something had changed. And it wasn’t the awkward arrangement of the tables and booths. Or the blank white walls. Or the lack of windows, or the low hung ceiling. What changed, what shifted, was our expectations about our experience. Instead of putting stipulations on what would make it a great experience, we just DECIDED it was a great experience. Who knew?
So, Christmas is not a perfect experience only and if all my children are under my roof. Because as they’re getting older, getting married, and even moving out of the country, if I’m rigid to the preferences that form my expectations that it’s only great if they’re here, then I’m going to be sorely disappointed and definitely let down more times than I get to have that perfect experience.
Being a single, middle aged woman is the experience I chose to make it; what I chose to think about it.
Everything, every event we get to participate in, every encounter we have, everything can be a rich experience that leads to a rich, good life. It’s all in how we think about it.
Friend, if you were to take an honest assessment of your preferences today, your expectations, your assumptions…would you say you live life with a raison d’être mindset? Are your thoughts about things so rigid that it’s making you miserable every time things don’t go like you expect or assume?
I’d like to encourage you to do a little exercise with me this week. Will you join me in purposing to be hyper-aware of the thoughts that are wreaking havoc in your life? Making you miserable? Disappointing you at every turn? Will you be aware of questions you ask yourself like: “Why does everything go wrong? Why can’t things just go right in my life for once?” Or “Why can he/she just act right?” or “My spouse must not really love me because they’re not doing this or that?” or “My life is just so average. Why do other people get to live such an exciting life? I’m missing out.”
These types of questions are indicators that we’re living life with run-a-muck preferences, end-all-be-all expectations, and ignorant assumptions. Let’s determine to change that! Let’s decide TODAY that we’re going to think differently about every area and experience in life, as see how we feel at the end of the day. I just about guarantee you, you’ll feel a weight lifted, you’ll smile more, you’ll love more, you’ll experience your life in a genuinely rich way. Just think if you made this your daily habit! Let’s do it! Let’s go change our world one thought at a time, shall we?