Happiness = Reality – Expectations
I came across this “formula” after a rather difficult day in my life at the end of which I found my expectations put through a blender and then thrown down the toilet. This isn’t the first time this happened. Being an optimist makes the clash with my own expectations even worse.
I decided to look more deeply into this topic and came across the above formula, which for a while seemed to make sense. Luckily, I wrote this article and I realized that of course things aren’t as clear cut. It’s good that “expectations” seems to be a subject everybody + their dog love to debate. That made it very easy for me to find some useful information about the topic.
First, let’s see what the “having no expectations is good” camp has to say:
The article above comes from an author of some 11 books and hundreds of articles. He’s making good points. But what I notice is that he handles only the negative part of having expectations, which is fine. But I find it very important to realize that “expectations” isn’t just a noun: it’s a complex and multi-faceted behavior.
What does having “no expectations” mean anyway? And if such a thing is so simple, why doesn’t everybody just do it? As it turns out, there’s a problem with the “Happiness = Reality – Expectations” formula.
As this (rather poorly typed but still valuable) article^ points out: “you’ll work your ass off to lower your expectations to lonely monk limits. Then, when expectations will be close to zero, you’ll get to: Happiness = Reality — 0. Which really means Happiness = Reality. Are you kidding me?”
This nicely leads us to what the “expectations are good” camp has to say:
So yes, expectations can be good. As the article above correctly points out: “if I operate by the theory of most and don’t expect anything from people, then where’s my inspiration to strive for more? If I’m not to expect certain behaviors from people in my life, what motivates me or them to develop into being the best version of ourselves?”
And now here’s an article about expectations and relationships. It drives some solid points especially when it comes to not accepting being treated poorly.
So who’s right? Everybody! These are all good, valuable points.
So what to do? Expectations management. That’s how we, as individuals, can decide how expectations can either empower us or drag us down. So, here’s a new formula:
Happiness = Reality + Expectation Management
“Having expectations is strangling yourself with the future, hooked to a ceiling that can sometimes be as far away from you as never.”