We all like to portray ourselves as successful. We did it! We made it! We passed! We graduated! We got the promotion!

But you and I know that sometimes, there are disappointments. We feel we could have done better. We are downsized out of our jobs. We have to take that exam again. And in real estate, there are disappointments, for sure, despite the happy posts on Facebook by realtors.

An offer doesn’t get accepted on the house of our dreams. We don’t get the price we had hoped for when we listed our property. Our financing doesn’t come through. A home inspection ends up being bad news. On an open house day, the washer overflows.

I am always reminded how deeply real estate compares to life. We have hopes and dreams and we hope that we will get what we want. When it doesn’t happen, we have to keep on going. The world doesn’t stop just because we don’t get what we want. We re-align ourselves and adjust to setbacks. We often look back later and realize: Weren’t we fortunate? That job didn’t work out, but it set me on a path toward something better.

And it is the same with searching for a home. One would think that–after all–seeing as how homes are all built from the same materials, just put together in different ways, that one could live almost anywhere. But we are hard to please. We have expectations and we each have a kind of virtual idea of what we can live with and what we cannot live without. It is the same with life. We set our expectations for what we will achieve and there is a huge variance between people.

What do people really want? If you have figured out what you need and are able to set aside grand or unreasonable desires, you have it made. We may think a job, certain clothing, a particular type of vehicle, or a specific home will make us happy. And maybe each of these things will, for a time.

But the abiding part of happiness lies within each of us. We carry it with us every day, no matter what we do for a living, what kind of car we drive, or where we live. Happiness is elusive and yet, someone facing a terminal illness can be happy. Someone with few financial resources can be happy. Someone living in modest circumstances can be happy. I bet you have often asked yourself how to find the happiness that you think you see in others. I know I have. It has always looked to me as if it is easier for some people to find happiness. In the meantime, I re-think possible outcomes, worry about the future and wonder if I am doing enough and doing it well enough.

It is hard to come to grips with the notion that we choose what we think. But we do choose. We choose to constantly strive for more and for better than what we had yesterday. Or we choose on various levels to be content with what we have and who we are.

If striving makes you happy, so be it. Perhaps our economy would collapse if everyone was happy with what they had.

Yet it is nice, every so often, to look at who you are, what you have and how you move through the world — and to then be simply grateful and satisfied with the whole darn thing. Give everything a rest and just live with the way things are. Sometimes I do that. I cut myself a break for just one day. It kind of proves to me that I can do it — be content with everything as it is.

As I work with clients, I am inside those disappointing moments when things don’t work out and I am there for those happy times, where everything falls into place. It is in those less-than-perfect moments that I see people rise to the occasion and find a way forward. Hope and optimism win. Telling yourself that things never work out for you is not the best way to nurture yourself.

We all deserve happiness but our personal role in deciding what that looks like can be our downfall or our salvation.

What do we deserve exactly? What do we need? Maybe asking ourselves those questions is a good place to start.