Are you expecting any joy in your life today? If so, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. However, if you can shift your attitude to one of anticipating joy, you may find that you are on a better road toward experiencing more of what you seek in life. The difference? Infinitesimal and yet massive at the same time.
If you go about your day expecting joy, peace, or just about any positive experience, you are pretty much setting yourself up for failure. Why? Because who amongst us is going to experience joy, peace or fulfillment all of the time? One hundred percent is a pretty tall order, and since perfection seems to be beyond our grasp, all you have to do is live in expectation of that perfection in order to wind up with a big letdown.
Noticing that you're not experiencing joy or peace at any one moment can be difficult enough; if you start to notice that the moments are mounting, you can wind up becoming even more disappointed, if not downright upset. The downward spiral gains momentum every time you notice that reality hasn't met up with your expectations. The more often you notice your disappointment, the harder it is to dig out of that experiential hole. And the deeper that hole, the harder it is to find your out.
If you repeat this cycle of dashed expectations often enough, it's a pretty short trip to the field of hopelessness. If you hang out in hopelessness, sooner or later you may wind up sporting that all-too-familiar expression of why bother in the first place? The more time you spend in "why bother," the less likely you are to actually try anything different.
So what's the shift that can take you from hopelessness to actually experiencing joy rather than disappointment?
It's pretty simple, really: Shift from expecting joy to anticipating joy. Besides the obviously-simplistic idea that this could be nothing more than semantics, there is actually a huge difference. Expectations carry with them the sense of entitlement along with a demand for immediacy. "I expected" it is a way of saying I deserved it, and if you're expecting joy today, then not only are you running on the premise of you deserve it, but that you deserve it now and that the source of your joy comes from someone or something outside yourself.
Anticipation, however, carries with it a sense that the joy is coming and you just don't know when. "It's just around the corner" is a whole different mindset from "it damn well better be just around the corner."
The trick to anticipating joy is not that much different from that old Heinz catsup commercial put to Carly Simon's song "Anticipation" -- you just have to hang in there long enough for the joy to come out. While you're waiting, you stay focused on how good it's going to "taste" when it finally does come out.
The Power of Visualization
Merriam-Webster tells us that anticipation involves "a prior action that takes into account ... a later action" or "visualization of a future event or state." In other words, it's going to be pretty hard to anticipate something you have not previously experienced. One way to set the table for anticipating joy, or just about any other positive experience, is to practice the joy in advance of it showing up.
A very simple way to gain some practice of your desired future state, and thus create the positive experience of anticipation, is to develop an affirmation or visualization of your desired state. So, how do you go about creating an affirmation or visualization? It's pretty simple, really. Try imagining what it would be like to experience the joy you seek. What would you feel like, what would you imagine seeing or doing in that state of joy? As you craft an image of that desired state, add as much rich texture to the image and experience as you can. My advice is to avoid getting too fixated on specific physical aspects of your joy or happiness, to avoid focusing on elements such as the new car, house or job. Cars, houses and jobs have ways of changing, getting dinged, or otherwise wearing off.
Rather, focus on your deeper self and your state of being. As you create your inner visualization, focus on the qualities you associate with feeling joy-filled. As the images and feelings become increasingly rich, then imagine a positive phrase or affirmation that speaks to that experience as though it already were present.
The more richness you put into the visualization, the more real your inner experience, the more present it already becomes. Adding an affirmation simply reminds you that the joy or other positive experience is already yours to claim.
How to Create an Affirmation
Many of you will know the time-honored affirmation created by French psychologist Émile Coué de la Châtaigneraie: Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better. Coué held that daily repetition of this kind of affirmation would help prepare the unconscious mind to accept or create a positive change in life.
In my experience, these kinds of affirmations are useful in aligning your Self-Talk with your Soul-Talk. If you have been following this series of articles over the past year, you will know that I am talking about the difference between your negative thinking or programming, which focuses on limitation, and the quieter voice of who you truly are inside. Your soul already resides in joy and affirmations are simply ways of reminding yourself who you truly are.
Here are a couple of affirmations that I have found useful, something you can use as a starter set if you like, or perhaps use as a basic guide to help you on the way to forming your own set of personalized affirmations:
We all know people who continually mutter that bad things always seem to happen to them. The longer they persist in this negative form of affirmation, the greater truth it takes on. However, we also know the person who expects miracles and almost always seems to find a way to make lemonade out of life's lemons.
Affirmations and visualizations are but one way to move the odds in your favor. So ask yourself, what might you have to gain by giving this approach a shot? Surely, you won't have much to lose. However, you also need to keep in mind that positive thinking alone is insufficient -- sooner or later, you will need to take some kind of positive action. Your first positive step just might be to create a positive affirmation and accompanying visualization.
One cycle or repetition will not suffice. You will probably need to stick with this for some time in order to create the necessary shift. So, why not pick one and give it a go for the next week or so? If you like the experience, you can then keep it going. You might be more than surprised by the amount of positive change that can occur if you stick with it. The first step is to take the first step.
I would love to hear from you so please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at) russellbishop(dot)com.
If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.
Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at www.RussellBishop.com. You can contact me by email at Russell (at) russellbishop.com.
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