The F word you need to embrace

Forgiveness is the gift you give yourself, not a gift you give someone else

So many people today yearn for happiness, joy, and love — seemingly, to no avail.

We live in a world with so many choices, and resources, and freedoms, and so much technology, yet so many of us seem to live lives that are filled with MORE stress and LESS enjoyment than ever in history. Why is this? What are we missing?

There are, of course, many ways to try to answer this question, but having worked with more than 50 million people in 100 countries around the world, I can tell you people have patterns of perception. That is, in all the ways of looking at and labeling our experiences of other people, the events that occur in our lives — many cause people to feel frustrated and constricted with life.

Still, I have met a few amazing people over the years who consistently experience a life filled with abundance and purpose. They are those who lead meaningful lives, and they are truly, genuinely happy (and it’s rarely, if ever, because their lives are any easier than yours or mine).

The remarkable thing is, that no matter how blessed a life may be with health, wealth, family, close friends, opportunities to learn and grow, and a chance to give back, the number one pattern that denigrates, and, in some cases, completely destroys people’s lives, is expectations.  

That’s it; that’s the catch. Expectations.

Expectations, stress and pain

If you really want to be stressed, all you have to do is expect life and all the people in it, to think, behave, speak, and act the way you have predetermined they ”should.” If you hang on to your expectations, I can guarantee you plenty of stress and pain.

Human beings all have different values, beliefs, fears, habits, and needs. That’s the reason why even the most kind and loving person you know can – in just a moment – be insensitive, mean-spirited or at least unconscious of the impact they’re having on someone else. So what if the only way you can be happy is for everyone to act or communicate every moment in ways that meet your ideal expectations? Then you best plan on a life of continuous disappointment and pain.

What’s the solution to being disappointed all the time? Trust that people do the best they can with the resources they have. When you experience someone doing something unconscious, it’s helpful to remember that it’s rarely ever about you, and almost always just that person feeling so much stress and pressure that they have literally activated their survival mode. People in survival mode can go blind in a moment. It happens to the very best of us. It’s part of being human. We can’t expect anyone to be perfect all the time.

The best formula for a great life

Trade your expectations for appreciation. The moment you do, your whole world transforms.

That’s it. You know how it feels when people expect you to give them something, it takes away the gift of spontaneous surprise and the joy you’re able to feel from giving. By contrast, when YOU appreciate whatever life or people bring you, you are choosing to guarantee openness and invite the joy that young children have … before we spoil them with giant birthday parties and create unrealistic expectations that life and people all exist to meet their desires and needs. So much anger, frustration, rage, hurt, depression, and sadness burns from expecting people to be loving, generous, courteous, compassionate, proactive, present, supportive, caring, etc.

I have found that sometimes people will be all of these things, if they feel secure in their life, or, if you are lucky to know one of those people with a habitually bright disposition. Just maybe you are lucky enough to have these kind experiences with close friends who love you and have the high standards to consistently act this way. But, the larger the group of people you interact with, the greater the chance that you’ll receive a variety of responses and if your wellbeing is based on those acquaintances acting a certain way back to you, you simply will not have much well-being.

The power of the F-words: Forgiveness and Faith

Other than perhaps gratitude (which is the underpinning of both) no two human emotions have a greater impact on the quality of your life than forgiveness and faith. We will always carry anger and hurt in our hearts as long as we have expectations of other people and life conditions we can’t control. Forgiveness is really an understanding that the only person you hurt when you’re upset (no matter how justified it may be) is yourself. Even if everything in you wants to blame someone else, consider giving yourself the gift of forgiving your expectations.

I met Nelson Mandela in the early 1990s and was so moved by his ability to be imprisoned unjustly and yet come out and forgive the very people who took away a quarter-a-century of his life! I asked him how he “survived” those years. He told me he didn’t survive; he “prepared.” He prepared to forgive so that if, in fact, he did survive, he would be able to let go and move on. He knew that only in letting go would he be able to lead himself and others to transform his beloved home of South Africa.

Mandela said, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew that if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

Nelson Mandela understood fundamentally that forgiveness is not a gift we give others, it is a gift we give ourselves. It is true freedom from stories of our past and from the pain, rage, and anger that can eat away at our mind and body.

Gandhi, Oprah, Nelson Mandela are not the only people capable of this kind of radical forgiveness. The truth is: we all are. When we raise our standard, we free ourselves.

Ask yourself: What if everything in life really did happen for a reason? What if everything really did have a purpose and it always served us in the long run? What if life was always happening FOR us, not TO us? What if even the pain and problems had a higher purpose in the growth and evolution of our souls?

If you were to look back on your life, I would be willing to bet you’ve had some painful experiences that you would never want to experience again, AND yet, some of those horrible past experiences – you may already have realized – that while you would never want to experience them again, thank God you did because it caused you to develop a depth of insight or caring, or a level of inner strength that to this day shapes who you are and the greatness of what you can give to others.

When you tap into this level of consciousness, you have found a higher meaning in your past pain. You didn’t just forgive. Your faith moved you beyond the experience itself and through the higher purpose you found, you freed and strengthened your spirit.

I can tell you, it’s the people who give up the story of what happened to them and find a higher meaning who are the ones who lead, grow, give, and experience life’s deepest joy and fulfillment. We all think our problems are so huge, but there is always someone out there who is being asked to bear even more. To be truly free and happy in this life, we must give up our expectations. Our biggest problem may very well be the belief that we are not supposed to have problems! Our power is in our problems as they unleash our resourcefulness and cause us to grow in order to respond consciously and compassionately to them. Radical forgiveness and faith in guidance or a higher meaning in our experience is the answer.

How to really forgive

Research shows biochemical changes in blood flow to different parts of the brain when we are angry and conversely, when we choose to forgive. Numerous studies prove that hosting anger and chronic emotional distress erodes physical health, alters cardiovascular homeostasis, impoverishes sleep quality, and stimulates the production of stress-related hormones like cortisol. Conversely, forgiveness promotes wellbeing, cardiovascular health, and may increase survival rates.

So how do we do it? How do we find it in our hearts?  Try and channel a role model like Nelson Mandela. Or tap a time in the past when you found forgiveness and choose to unleash the healing power again today. When did you forgive even before someone said they were sorry? When can you choose to forgive without requiring an apology, or any conditions, or even a change of heart? Where can you own a higher meaning and finally set yourself free? How can you just let it go?

It all goes back to trading in those useless expectations. And one way to get in the habit of this is through activating gratitude. I make a daily habit of finding 10 minutes to be grateful for as many little things as I can think of every single day. What’s interesting is that we are incapable of being angry and grateful simultaneously. So get grateful in a hurry! Cultivating this emotion daily creates the wiring so that it’s easy to forgive for what others get stuck and stressed over. Feel grateful more often over little things and I can promise you this will result in the ability to forgive quickly and easily and free yourself of pain.

Finally, if you’re still not forgiving then you are STILL blaming something outside yourself. Which is normal. Most people are not good at forgiveness but they’re good at blame. It’s human nature. So I suggest we put our strength to good use. If you’re going to blame someone for all your pain, then you’ve got to blame them for all your joy, too. If you’re going to blame God for all your tragedies, you’ve got to blame God for all your gifts. If you’re going to blame your parents for being so terrible, you’ve got to blame them for the strength it gave you later on.

Remember: What’s wrong is always available; so is what’s right.  Growth, joy, new insights, meaning, happiness, freedom, and love are just a little faith and forgiveness away.

Header image © fizkes/shutterstock

Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins is an entrepreneur, bestselling author, philanthropist and the nation’s #1 Life and Business Strategist. Author of five internationally bestselling books, including the recent New York Times #1 best-seller UNSHAKEABLE, Mr. Robbins has empowered more than 50 million people from 100 countries through his audio, video and life training programs. He created the #1 personal and professional development program of all time, and more than 4 million people have attended his live seminars.

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