‘When all else fails, lower your standards’. That sounds like a defeatist talking, doesn’t it? A defeatist is a person who expects or is excessively ready to accept failure. That certainly doesn’t sound like the kind of person one would set out to become.
The irony is that when it comes to our happiness, this is exactly the attitude I believe is necessary that we need to develop. Allow me to clarify what I mean.
There is an underlying belief system in our culture that tells us that feeding one’s ego with fame, fortune, achievements, material extravagances and personal adornments is the path to happiness. Through experience and observation I have to believe that this doesn’t work out in most cases and is in fact sometimes the opposite from the real truth.
A great case in point would be to observe our celebrities’ personal lives. It seems that more than often that this part of life is not as stellar as their professional success. If ‘getting’ was the key to happiness, then they should be some of the happiest people in the world with all their fame and fortune.
Here is an alternative to our culture’s conventional thinking for you to think about. It is in direct opposition to what we have been taught. The richest man (in happiness) is not he who has the most, but he who needs the least.
If you can go along with this idea, then I have some suggestions as to what we need to let go of in order to become richer. Here is where I believe that lowering our standards comes into play. If we can agree that a focus on getting can’t give us real happiness, then possibly we need to create a new set of beliefs that will help us move closer to our happiness goals.
One belief, whether it is acknowledged or not, is the idea that we are the centre of the universe. Included in this idea is that everything we want should come to us freely in the way we want, when we want it, in order to satisfy us. It sounds like an such an absurd idea that anyone would ever be silly enough to believe this. But we all know it to be true with so many people, maybe even ourselves.
We all have a sense of separation from everyone else that comes with an incredibly strong survival instinct. This can make us feel like we are the only one that counts. After all, this is our dream and everyone else in it is just a bit player. Carried to extremes, this idea allows for us to take advantage of everyone else so that we can get what we want. This egocentric way of thinking can lead to all sorts of behaviour that further isolates us from the rest of humanity.
Another underlying belief is that we are always right. Always being right is nothing more than a symptom of being controlled by our egos. When your way is the right way and everyone who doesn’t see things your way is wrong, then you know you have a problem. Being run by your ego is a guaranteed way to be unhappy. It is a flawed system from the start. Let go of being right all the time and lower your self-righteous standards. Even if you are right, the person you made wrong is not happy with you.
The last standard to lower is your expectations of others. If you don’t expect specifics out of another, you’ll never be disappointed or unhappy with them. Hey, it’s difficult enough to control your own actions so why spend any energy trying to control someone else? Parents, spouses, employers, employees, and everyone else can gain much happiness when you let go of control over anyone. It doesn’t mean that you can’t help or guide someone to better themselves. You just never know how people are going to respond. Sometimes shaking your head in wonderment is the only reasonable action to take.
Dr William Glasser, renowned psychiatrist said that all human behaviours are an attempt to satisfy five basic needs that he claims are genetically programmed from birth. These needs are also values and are: survival, power, belonging, freedom, and enjoyment.
One of the keys to happiness is to find out what are your ego requirements for these needs are so that you can begin to overcome them. The more your ego is entwined into these basic needs the more emotionally attached you are to them. The more emotionally attached you are to an expectation of fulfilling these needs, the more likely you will become disappointed and unhappy when things don’t go your way. With the proper intentions one begin to overcome these ego dictates with some reason and careful consideration. The path toward a happier life will ensue.
Scott Trettenero’s recent book, Master the Mystery of Human Nature: Resolving the Conflict of Opposing Values helps readers learn about themselves, others and how the world works because of our differences. Scott has maintained a solo dental practice in Southwest Florida since 1981. His research on quality service in dentistry and his interest in human temperaments formed the basis for his first book, Unlocking the T-Code. He is married and has two children. You can follow him on Twitter @