Monday, July 18, 2011

Balancing Your Standards with Happiness

Last night I spent an hour talking to my mother about life. I was able to salvage my Sunday, but there were two points of extreme disappointment as people said they were going to do something and it didn’t happen. I think since 2003, I’ve always managed my expectations to expect nothing from anyone. After about eight years of this, it’s become an annoying habit to friends and family. I expect less, and believe nothing when someone tells me they are going to do something. I learn from my mother that I have to learn to depend on others because it shows them I care, but it also allows them to show that they are able to be a good friend or family member. But the problem is people have a tendency to disappoint. It’s so funny that I grew up playing baseball and am now in a career where I spend most of my time reducing error and increasing my ability to execute. I have become the type of person who cannot tolerate someone who shows no growth. Simply put, once the same things start happening over and over again, I’m inclined to think it’s happening on purpose, or you’re just not capable of anything better. Anyway, here were a few highlights from the conversation.

“At times your standards are so low for people that you can’t ever hope to be happy.”

I have a bad habit of accepting “less than” out of people because I just don’t think they are capable of anything more. I realize that the majority of the people in the world are inconsiderate, maybe not maliciously, but people are usually concerned with themselves before they are concerned with others. This leads them to disappoint. I am called picky or that I have high expectations, but then I’ll tell myself that deep down I know that it’s likely that others won’t be able to meet my expectations. I have dated people in the past who didn’t live up to my expectations only because I thought I was being mean to dead someone so early on for not meeting a list of expectations that I had. This always led to failure. I would find situations in which I was comfortable, but I was never fully engaged. My dad always said, if you’re going to spend your money or time, get what you want. I’ve always been in the business of following that advice.

“You should never be afraid to stick with what works for you, and if that doesn’t work for someone else, then move on.”

I have this thing about myself, it’s called, “the way we will and will not do business.” Like I said before I don’t expect a lot but there are two things that I require, 1) Do what you say you’re going to do and 2) Communicate with me, the way I communicate with you. Now I get in a lot of trouble for these things because of the way it is enforced but I refuse to compromise on this, and so I’m assertive when someone violates. For the first, since I rarely expect things from people, when they do in fact tell me that they will do something, I expect it to get done. I don’t ask people for things all too often, so most times they offer. If I make the attempt to trust that you will take care of something, the least you can do is do what YOU said you would do. The second is because when I think and when I speak the thoughts are usually different. I learned early on in undergrad that I had a way with words that could make people cry. I was always trying to one-up someone and this led me to being a very harsh person. I’ve changed over the years, so when someone gives me a sharp response or they just insist on being rude, I immediately stop talking to them. They might say, “I don’t mean anything by it, this is just how I am.” And I quickly remind them, “but you do what works for you, this line of communication doesn’t work for me.” Several times I’ve experienced times where someone has violated these two rules and I have to make a decision whether to lower expectations even more, or move on. If I feel that this is an exception or extreme case, I may give a person another chance, but if not, I am expeditious to move on.

“Exceptions become expectations.”

It’s really funny when something my dad told me years ago is something that my mother tells me. It’s freaking hilarious. But my approach to situations is that I rarely allow people to have exceptions, and I refrain from doing favors without making sure that the person knows that I’m doing something that I do not have to do. The reason is because if you keep doing something for someone too long, they’ll grow to expect it. My father told me this story about flowers one day. He was on the way home from work one day and he said, ‘I’ll pick up some flowers for my wife.” And he did so. And every other week he would bring flowers home. After a few months he was bringing home flowers every Friday, it was something special that he liked to do. Well, one day, time got the best of him and his schedule and he wasn’t able to grab some flowers on the way home. When he walked in the apartment, my mother said, “Where are my flowers?” The exception, the favor, had become an expectation. He told me that they argued that night about the flowers, he was upset that she started to expect them, and she was upset that he started doing something and he should see it through now. This reminded me of a situation I had with someone I was dating in the past when I told my friend that I was frustrated about the situation and he said that I need to stand up for myself, my response, “Man, I shouldn’t have let it slide in the beginning. Now, not only do I have to talk about why it bothers me, but I have to be prepared that it might all get shut down with, ‘how come you never said nothing about it?’” Trust me, everyone hates, “How come you never said nothing about it?” I think most relationships, most men in relationships should get a clause like in a lease that says, “If the rule is not enforced on a case-by-case basis it is not a concession to remove the rule from the lease.”

“Never sacrifice or compromise your standards so that you can temporarily be happy.”

This is most likely to happen in relationships because by nature, no one likes to be alone. I’m sure you know someone who clearly is not happy with their situation but as someone once told me, “She would rather have a piece than nothing at all.” And dead ass, this goes both ways as I’ve seen dudes put up with a lot of shit just to have a woman around. Me and WIM always joke back and forth about crazy women, but the reality is, we put up with crazy because they are dime pieces. We have a tendency to date people who constantly disappoint us, they don’t call when they say they will, they don’t show up when they are supposed to show up, we battle with the decision to completely erase them from our lives or hold out on hope. Faith-based relationship; faith is the belief in things not seen. Or as Kanye said, Lack of Visual Empathy defines L.O.V.E., or something like that. It might take you a moment to really understand what he was trying to say there, but trust me it hit me one time like a ton of bricks. When we compromise our standards for happiness we end up being more hurt than before. It’s like we’re all heroin addicts; we are gluttons for punishment, but the highs get more intense, and the lows become unbearable. It’s a life of pain. Have you noticed in your relationship that when you start to compromise your arguments and disagreements become more and more volatile? That’s a sign that you are using your relationship like a drug; a quick fix here and there, but the pain is still there.

I enjoy conversations with my mother because it reminds me of these things. It’s not just about romantic relationships, it’s about all the relationships that we have in our lives. Family, friends, and coworkers are all examples of people we have to manage our expectations with in order to remain happy. Probably none more than your job. I’m heading there now and I realize that it’s just painful at times to think that you make so many concessions in your career for a paycheck. Damn capitalistic society has us hooked! For me, I always try to maintain high expectations of myself and high hopes that someone will meet my standards. I don’t think they’re unrealistic, but they’re just to ensure that someone like myself doesn’t bore or tire of people who I allow to be in my life. And so, I don’t think that’s a bad approach at all.


Anonymous said...

{how come you never said nothing about it?....most men in relationships should get a clause like in a lease that says, “If the rule is not enforced on a case-by-case basis it is not a concession to remove the rule from the lease.”}

Haha, yes! This also works with parenting. I am one of those mom's who is like: "so you mean my son has been misbehaving for the past 3months and youre just telling me now?...hmmmm"

Sacrificing my standards for temporary happiness use to be so difficult for me but I've mastered it! I'd be lying if I said I haven't had a few "relapses" since...but I realize this & try to prevent it from happening again.

Tunde said...

"When he walked in the apartment, my mother said, “Where are my flowers?” The exception, the favor, had become an expectation."

real talk. this very thing happened to me.

Mrs.Brightside said...

I haven't read the whole post but the bolded quotes speak the solutions to my overly dramatic weekend.

Mrs.Brightside said...

Thank you for this post and tell your mom I said thanks for this one “At times your standards are so low for people that you can’t ever hope to be happy.” I have high expectations for family, friends or potential friends but for potential mates my expectations are pretty low. I’ll pretty much accept what they give, feel some type of way about it because I hoped for more but acknowledge the fact that I can’t be mad because I already knew what it was.

I’ll spare you the details of my weekend but to sum it up I have a strong faith that people are more considerate than they really are. I had come to the conclusion that I have too high expectations for people and planed to lower them across the board but this post gives me hope that I’m doing something right.

Streetz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Streetz said...

Exceptions becomes expectations... that's so real.