We stress ourselves out… because of fantasies.
We procrastinate to the point of failure… because of fantasies.
We get angry with others, with ourselves, and with the world at large… because of fantasies.
We miss out on many of life’s most beautiful and peaceful moments… because of fantasies.
We – yes, all of us – break our own hearts far too often because of the fantasies we tell ourselves. That might seem hard to believe at first, so let’s look at some common examples…
- When we wake up and immediately start fantasizing and worrying about all the things we have to do, we aren’t really doing anything but adding stress to an otherwise pleasant morning.
- When we fear the potential of failure, and we procrastinate in response to our fear, our fearful fantasies force us to miss great opportunities for success.
- When someone upsets us, this is often because they aren’t behaving according to our fantasy of how they “should” behave. The frustration, then, stems not from their behavior but from how their behavior differs from our fantasy.
- When we think about making a healthy change in our lives (like getting in shape), we are initially inspired by the fantasy of what life will feel like while we’re getting healthier, but… that’s not reality. So when the reality of working hard to exercise and eat right surfaces, and it doesn’t match up with our inspiring fantasy, we give up.
- When we’re having a conversation with someone, we’re distracted with fantasies of how this person views us, or we’re distracted by our propensity to fantasize about how to respond before they even finish talking, and thus we miss the opportunity to connect more deeply with them.
- When we move through our days, our minds are stuck fantasizing about other times and places, and so we miss the pleasant surprises and simple pleasures surrounding us.
- And the list goes on…
Of course, sometimes we get out of our own heads long enough to focus on the present and make the best of it, but it’s NOT often enough. And we need to be reminded of this reality…
Hard Truths Worth Remembering
Our course students come to us almost every day with questions and concerns that ultimately pertain to the disparity between their fantasies and the realities they’re faced with. And while their personal circumstances tend to vary, the hard truths they’re struggling to accept always overlap. Truths like…
- When you are lost in worry, it is easy to mistake your worries for reality, instead of recognizing that they are just fantasies.
- If you avoid action because you’re stuck fantasizing about the possibility of failure, you guarantee failure. And the truth is we all fail. But the greater truth is that no single failure ever defines us.
- It’s impossible to know what the future will bring. So your best bet for living is to make the best and most positive use of the present, by focusing on it and attending to it with care and confidence.
- You will end up very disappointed if you expect people will always do for you as you do for them. Not everyone has the same heart as you.
- Real love and real kindness are about giving others more than they expect, without expecting them to notice or appreciate you for it. It’s about being fully present with them because you truly want to be. (Angel and I build mindful communication rituals with our students in the “Love and Relationships” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
- Simple things become complicated when you expect too much. Expectation truly is the root of all heartache. Don’t let it get the best of you.
- It is far better to be exhausted from lots of effort and learning, than to be tired of doing absolutely nothing but fantasizing about everything.
- Good things don’t come to those who patiently wait. Good things come to those who are patient… while working hard for what they want most in life.
- In a culture that dreams of quick and easy results, we must learn the beauty of effort, patience, and perseverance. Be strong, present, and steadfast. (Angel and I show how in the “Goals and Success” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- Happiness and peace is yours whenever you find the presence and stillness to truly appreciate the small things while chasing after the big ones.
Letting Go of Fantasies
Once you’ve got your mind wrapped around the truth, it’s time to let go of your old fantasies and refocus your attention on the present moment. See it for what it really is, not what you think it should be. Accept it, so you can make the best of it.
Move through the day and practice seeing life as it is…
Do what you have to do without worrying and fearing the worst, lamenting about what might happen, or obsessing over how difficult your work is. Just begin, take it one step at a time, and do the best you can.
See others for who they are, and accept them, without needless judgments. Choose not to allow their behavior to dominate your thoughts and emotions. Just be present and accepting. Then decide if you want to spend extra time with them. If not, part ways peacefully.
Carry your presence with you wherever you go. Appreciate the little moments. Remind yourself that there are few joys in life that equal a good laugh, a good conversation, a good morning walk, a good afternoon hug, or a good deep breath at the end of the day.
Truth be told, we can fantasize all we want, but it doesn’t improve our reality.
So let’s replace our fantasies with full presence…
And invest our best into what we’ve got, right here, right now.
How have your fantasies (about how life “should” be) affected you, your work, or your relationships? Any additional thoughts to share? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a reply below.
Also, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to sign-up for our free newsletter to receive new articles like this in your inbox each week.
Photo by: Oscar Keys