I’m constantly fighting thoughts like these because these particular thoughts are engrained deep into my brain. I’ve always told myself “things will be so much easier and better when I graduate”. Or I will be so much happier after getting married”. Or “having children will bring so much more love and happiness into my life and marriage”. The truth is what is better anyway? Is life really going to be less challenging just because something in my environment changes? Now that is irrational.
I’ve found an adequate replacement thought for this. Since “things getting better” is a subjective concept that is based on my own perception of how things are I can decide right now that things are great. Things could actually be a lot worse. If I’m currently employed I could think of what it would be like if I was unemployed. If I have food and shelter I could imagine myself being hungry and homeless. There is a very high probability that things could be a lot worse in my life right now. So why base my happiness on something I don’t have right now? I’m going to stop telling myself that things are going to get better.
This technique is called negative visualization. This was practiced by the ancient stoics. Instead of telling themselves that things would get better they would expect the worse instead and that way when things go wrong it wouldn’t affect them and they would be well prepared. The Roman Emperor (and stoic) Marcus Aurelius wrote about this in his book Meditations:
Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil
By living everyday expecting the worse of my environment I will be better prepared for difficult situations, I will not be disappointed when things don’t go my way, and I will be satisfied when things exceed my expectations. Don’t get me wrong it’s rational to try to make future preparations but it’s irrational to get my hopes up of the future and then just disappoint myself when it doesn’t meet my high expectations.