There is a pervasive discontent in our society today. We seem to be suffering from an epidemic of unhappiness. Why do some of us seem to constantly be looking for something that we simply never quite seem to catch up to? What causes this discontent and how can we overcome it?

In your mind, you have thoughts and ideas about how things should be, how people should behave, and how your life should look. These ideas are fantasies or expectations dreamed up in your mind. Because they are just ideas, they are not real. They are not truth; just thoughts.

You may not even realize that you have these expectations. Unconsciously, you go about your life trying to live up to certain standards; you have no idea where they came from or why you have them but you blindly follow them because, well, you never thought to question them. We can be very attached to our ideas.

When reality differs from your expectations, and it often does, you feel stress or discontent. This gap between your fantasies of how life should be and your reality causes you to feel like you are not enough, that life isn’t working, that the grass is greener somewhere else – anywhere else, and you have difficulty feeling happy because life is not as it should be. And you don’t know why or what to do about it. You may have even changed your circumstances – divorced and remarried, new job or career, new city – but the same feelings emerge, that sense that nothing is quite as it should be. Life is wrong. You are wrong.

Techniques for increasing your appreciation and gratitude include keeping a gratitude journal or list help to focus your attention on the good things in your life. Such tools, while helpful, do not get to the root of the problem, which are the unrealistic and unreasonable expectations created by your untamed mind.

What causes us to create these fantasies and hence, cause us to feel stressed about ourselves and our lives? Why do we do this to ourselves? Here are four sources that fuel our discontent and what to do about them:

1) Unchecked expectations. You might have never stopped to consider what thoughts, ideas, or beliefs are guiding your feelings and your actions. When you feel discontent or frustration, identify your expectations. Are your expectations reasonable? Are they realistic? What other possibilities could there be? What if you stopped expecting and started accepting both reality and responsibility for your reality? What that means is that you embrace reality as it is and accept your part in creating it. This way, you can begin to make different choices to create something new.

2) Comparing yourself to others can lead you to put yourself down and to think you are not good enough. You will never match up to what others do or have. Each of us is different and even though each of us must tackle the same things in life – health, intellectual and spiritual development, finances, career, emotional intelligence, relationships, etc. – we each must find our own path to happiness. We each operate at different paces and focus on different areas of life at different times. For instance, someone who is masterful at managing their finances and has accumulated great wealth at a young age may not have a great marriage or they could be stressed out and unhealthy. Take heed when looking at one area of a person’s life and judging their happiness or success in life. People often put on a brave face, wearing a mask that hides their real pain. You cannot look at someone’s outside and know what is going on inside. Compare yourself only with yourself to examine your own progress.

3) Attempting to live up to the expectations of others. Accepting others’ expectations or standards for your success never works out well. It leaves you feeling like no matter what you do it will never be good enough. You feel frustrated, lost, and afraid of being left alone, not being liked, or losing the relationship (being abandoned). People have their own ideas, fantasies, and expectations about how you should behave – about how everyone should act and how everything should function. They suffer from the same disease of the mind: thoughts run amok. Give up your need to please others, start focusing on what you want for yourself, and learn to look for approval and acceptance from the most important person in your life: YOU!

4) You are never satisfied with what you have but keep wishing for something else. When you are never satisfied, you undervalue your accomplishments, have difficulty accepting compliments, and are unable to see value in what you have. Learn to appreciate the NOW, be engaged in the present moment, and experience what is right in front of you. When you are so busy you have no time to breathe, you cannot focus or enjoy the present moment and often react in unpleasant ways when under stress. When you learn to focus your attention, you lessen your anxiety and increase your level of happiness. You cannot experience happiness and joy in the past or the future. Anxiety takes you out of the NOW and will have you focus on “what ifs,” creating fantasies about an idealized future. Embrace the moment. Be fully present and engaged in whatever you are doing and enjoy whomever you are with in the moment.

Learning to challenge your expectations and to question your thoughts, ideas, and beliefs takes openness and willingness. Pay attention to your thoughts and how you normally or automatically react when an idea is threatened. When you are able to hear your thoughts and assess them, you are able to make better choices, which in turn gives you control over your mind, emotions, and actions. You cannot wish yourself happy. And you’ll never be happy if you are immersed in self-defeating thoughts and guided by unrealistic and unreasonable fantasies. Learn to take control of what goes on between your ears so you can experience the peace and happiness you long for.

Author's Bio: 

Julie Fuimano, MBA, BSN, RN, CSAC is dedicated to helping you break through the barriers to your happiness and success. She is a masterful coach, a motivational speaker and world-renowned writer and author. For additional resources and to sign up for her inspiring e-newsletter, visit or email