“When one’s expectations are reduced to zero, one really appreciates everything one does have.” 

I used to live in a world crowded with expectation.
I had expectations of others, expectations of society, and expectations of myself. Then there were also the expectations others had of me.
Gone are those days! Well almost… let’s just say things have changed drastically.
I describe myself as an optimistic person. I like to be happy, I like to see others happy and I always strive to focus on the brighter side of life. Some might describe that as being a bit of an idealist, but personally I don’t see the point of going through life focusing on the doom and gloom.
So when people share good news with me, I am always happy for them and I always visually or verbally express that happiness for them.
If someone is having a rough time, I’ll always do my best to be empathetic. I’ll look for some practical solutions to help them with their challenges and do my best to cheer them up.
This is my default way of operating in life and so for years I expected other people to be the same. If I achieved something, I expected friends and family to congratulate me. When I was excited about a new opportunity, I expected those closest to me to be excited for me. If I was feeling low, I would expect people in my life to offer me support and empathy. However, as I have grown older, I’ve realised that life doesn’t work that way and that not everyone acts the same way I do.
For years I would feel let down, disappointed and sometimes hurt when someone close to me did not share the joy of my achievements. People I thought would be happy for me expressed little or no reaction to accomplishments that I was proud of. I just didn’t get it. I would think, if the shoe was on the other foot, I would be ecstatic for you, so why do you not feel the same for me?
One day it dawned on me, people have the right to feel and react anyway they choose. If I don’t like it or it upsets me, I too have a choice. I can choose who I share my achievements with. I can choose who I spend my time with and I can choose how I react to their response. In fact, their response is probably not even personal to me.
I have learned that people don’t disappoint you, your expectations of people do.
When you expect something and you don’t get it, of course you are going to feel let down. Expectations set you up for disappointment; however it is human nature to have them. The trick is to avoid becoming attached to your desired outcome.
I now accept that not everyone reacts or behaves in the same way as I do. Instead of investing my energy into working out why they do not appear happy for me, I focus on maintaining my own positive and optimistic outlook on life. Don’t get me wrong, it would still be great if all the people in my life are happy for me when I achieve a meaningful goal, however I no longer expect it of them.
I also recognise how important it is to surround yourself with positive, supportive people. I used to believe those people would be my family and friends, by default, but I now know that is not necessarily the case. Don’t get me wrong, I do have some supportive and encouraging people in my life; however I also had some that were not.
I realise that it is best not to expect a reaction from a person, which is different to their default. Instead, I find that it is better for me to spend more time with people who instinctively express joy for others.
Changing my expectations of others means I can truly enjoy my achievements as I no longer fear a negative response from others.
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“You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” 

When I was younger, in my early twenties I wasn’t always my own best friend.

Especially when I made a mistake. Or when I failed.

No matter if it was in my personal life or in my studies at the university.

I didn’t have much patience for myself when I stumbled and so those situations usually wound up in days or sometimes even weeks when I beat myself up repeatedly about what went wrong.

Now, 10 years later, I have learned to be kinder towards myself.

Because even though self-beatings might sometimes work to perform better the next time it is in the long run a very destructive habit for your motivation, happiness and your self-esteem.

But what do you replace it with when you stumble or have a setback?

Let me share four insights and habits that have helped me with that.
1. Remember: If you want to do something of value in life then you will stumble.

If you want to go outside of your comfort zone, if you want to do things that really matter then you will stumble. You will fail or make mistakes from time to time.

It has happened to everyone over the past thousands of years that wanted to do something of value in the world.

So it is normal and it is OK. Even though some people may try to convince you otherwise.
2. Be your own best friend.

It is OK to feel angry or disappointed for a short while. But don’t fall into the common trap of beating yourself up and acting like an unkind boss towards yourself. That will erode your self-esteem. Be a kind and supportive friend to yourself instead.

Ask yourself: How would my friend/parent support me and help me in this situation?

Then do things and talk to yourself like he or she would.
3. What is one opportunity or lesson here?

A failure or a mistake is very rarely permanent. It might feel like it is. But most often it is temporary and there is something you can do about the situation.

So tap into optimism and being constructive instead of becoming passive and pessimistic.

Ask yourself: what is one opportunity or lesson in this situation?

My experience has been that there is almost always something that is helpful or good – in the long run – to find in any situation.
4. Take one small action to solve the situation or to move forward.

With your lesson or opportunity in mind ask yourself this:

What is one small step I can take right now to start solving or to moving away from this situation?

Then take that small step. Focus only on that step and on getting it to done.

And after that find the next small step and do the same with that one.

Step by small step keep moving forward towards something better, even if you may stumble again.
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