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Excerpted from Creating a Life of Joy by Salle Merrill Redfield. Copyright 1999 by Salle Merrill Redfield. Excerpted by permission of Time Warner Books and Time Warner Bookmark.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.
 


"If we hold the belief that 'I can only be happy when life is the way I expect it to be and people treat me the way I want them to,' we are setting ourselves up for disappointment."

Salle Merrill Redfield, Creating a Life of Joy, Part 4

Her children became so worried about her that they insisted she take a trip to Hawaii to visit her college roommate. While there she did some soul-searching and came to several life-changing conclusions. I asked her what her greatest realization was, and she said, "I learned I had to accept life on life's terms and that the only things I really have control over in life are my actions and my ability to interpret events. If something happens to me that is painful, I have the choice to use it or allow it to devastate me."

She went on to tell me that her first trip to Hawaii ended up being so healing that she stayed an entire month. During her stay she coincidentally heard about a class that helped people understand their beliefs about life. Through the class she realized how many of her beliefs were either unrealistic or belonged to her deceased parents and her ex-husband. She also realized that her expectations for herself and others were sometimes too rigid. She was trying to live up to what everyone else said was best for her, which made her depressed and hard to be around at times. Once she changed her beliefs about herself and others, she began to smile more and enjoy life.

As we ended our walk, she turned to me and said, "Salle, this is my real secret to being a joyful person: I make my life easy. I spend more time being grateful for what I have instead of focusing on what isn't working. I no longer believe that people have to do things my way and that I have to be perfect."

Ellen used her divorce as a cosmic push to examine her beliefs about life. Fortunately we don't need a crisis to prod us into examining our beliefs and changing them when needed. Anytime we feel unrest or the simple desire to change our lives for the better, we can explore our beliefs.

Early in life we are taught to live according to the standards of others. Our parents as well as family members, the media, and people in the community influenced how we viewed the world. Appropriate behavior was understood quickly. And in order to be accepted and fit in, we acted a certain way.

If we hold the belief that "I can only be happy when life is the way I expect it to be and people treat me the way I want them to," we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. Or if we believe we can only be happy when we have the perfect body, a fabulous job, and a house in the most prestigious neighborhood, we will regularly wake up frustrated.

There are many factors in life that we can't control. The world is forever changing. Homes become disorganized when there are children and hectic schedules. The weather doesn't always cooperate with our plans. And relationships cycle through the push/pull of doing things together and needing individual space. It becomes a waste of time and energy to hold ourselves and others up to perfectionistic standards that are based on a television program we saw or a book we read, or our own imagination.

For instance, I once heard a man talk about how he felt like a failure, even though he had an annual income of a million dollars and was working at his ideal occupation. This man was extremely unhappy, even though he had a wife who loved him dearly and was expecting their first child. He was in perfect health and living in a beautiful home overlooking the ocean. He was miserable because he believed he should be achieving more. In his mind he had failed to live up to his expectations and the expectations of his parents. He also had a belief that in order to succeed in life he must be serious all the time. Laughter was out. And he felt that he couldn't spend his weekends enjoying his favorite hobby, surfing, because that didn't fit into his image of being a father and a successful businessman.

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