The Secret of Happiness is Less Expectations

How many times in your life have you experienced hurt, disappointment, anger, or stress, from the difference between your imagination and reality? We’re very creative creatures. And when we set out to do things, we always expect that everything will turn out exactly the way we want. Does this sound familiar?

  • “I’m going to finish my degree. And then all the companies will line up for me. I’ll pick the one with the best compensation. And I’ll be rich.”
  • “I really like her. We’ll date for a few months. Move in together. Get married. She’ll want four kids. We settle for two. Get a holiday home at the beach. Boom. Happy life.”
  • “My business idea is awesome. I’ll raise some cash. Hire a few people to build the product. We’ll roll it out. The media will write about it. I’ll get on TV. And then I’ll sell the company.”
  • “I’ll make a few videos. Put them on YouTube or Insta. People will share them. One of my videos will go viral. And I’m in. Show me the money.”

Chances of those scenarios coming true? I don’t know exactly. But I guess it’s somewhere close to ZERO. On top of that, unexpected events can put an end to all our plans. Right now, we’re dealing with the war after dealing with the coronavirus, and after that, we probably have to deal with a recession.

It’s not the end of the world. We’ve been through challenging times before. And I’m not trying to bash your dreams here. It’s not practical to have high expectations because they hardly come true. So why have them in the first place?

They do more harm than good.

  • When you have high expectations and the outcome is worse: You’ll be frustrated.
  • When you have low expectations and the outcome is better: You’ll be grateful.

Barry Schwartz, a psychologist, and author of The Paradox of Choice, put it best: “The secret to happiness is low expectations.”

Now, this is not new information. Most of us know that high expectations are not helpful. Why do we still have them?

We still desire more, more, more. And when you want more, you expect more.

You see? You can’t fix your expectations without fixing your desires.

When you desire more, you also have more options.

“What should I do? Work more? Earn more money? Help more people? Spend more time with my family?”

In general, having more options is a bad thing. More means confusion. And confusion often results in anxiety and regret. Do you know this feeling: “What if I made the wrong decision?”

And more importantly: Don’t expect so much from others. You don’t control them anyway. Plus, no one’s perfect. People will disappoint you sometimes. And vice versa. Accept that it’s not the end of the world.

When you live your life free of expectations, you see things for what they are.

And let’s be real for a second: Being alive is the best thing in the world—no matter what the external situations are. We don’t need anything to be happy.

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