04 Mar Happiness is understanding…there’s no such thing as perfect progress
Several times in recent weeks I've consoled clients who've been upset with themselves for "failing". But when I've questioned them about their perceived failures it's become apparent that in reality, they've been doing quite well.
Why, then, the uhhappiness? And why, then, the mistaken perception of failure?
Well, as I've learned during 20+ years as a therapist and coach, many people have unrealistic expectations of progress and of change. Most clients (and people, generally) expect change to involve positive progress that occurs in a nice, smooth linear fashion…and then, happiness and success.
But life doesn't work like that.
There are thousands of cliches about the rocky road and how we will fall down 7 times but we just need to get up 8 times and do you know what? Cliches become cliches because there's an element of truth to them!
So, the reality is that as we make changes in our lives, whether we're trying to get fitter and healthier, happier, whether we're trying to lose weight or get stronger, or whatever…there will be good days and bad, times of rapid progress and times of slow progress or even slip ups that send us backwards.
These need not be bad times.
If we learn from these and bounce back quickly and use our strenghts plus utilise social support and other resources etcetera then…we can get ourselves back on the road to happiness and success quickly; if we can do all this then the "failure" need only be a TEMPORARY setback.
But if we dwell on how terrible everything is and assume it will be terrible for ever and blame ourselves for our shortcomings etcetera then…we'll probably spiral down, further and further and faster and faster into a depression that will make recovery even tougher and ultimately, less likely.
So, one of the keys to happiness and certainly one of the keys to positive progress which we need for long term success and happiness is…having realistic expectations. No one is perfect and thinking we SHOULD be is just dangerous and recipe for disaster. We all make mistakes and that's OK as long as we accept what's happened, remedy the situation as soon as possible, and learn from the experience so we protect ourselves as much as is possible (which is not 100%) from it happening again.
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