Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Novel on Expectations

Spoiler Alert: This is just another blog about happiness, specifically how changing our expectations can help us find more happiness and gratification from life. So if you're sick of my happiness rants feel free to skip this post.

I feel like a lot of us struggle to be happy with our lives and situations and believe that it is in part due to our unrealistic expectations. It seems like everyone these days expects everything to be perfect. They expect that life will be easy, that nothing will go wrong, and that life will work out exactly how they want it to. People expect the perfect job to fall in their laps, they expect their jobs to be fun all the time, they expect marriage to be full of bliss and falling in love, and they expect life to be easy and perfect. But I have learned in my short life: life rarely works out the way we want it to. And as a result we are often disappointed and ungrateful for the many wonderful things that happen in our lives. By expecting and demanding unrealistic things of the future we are denying ourselves happiness and the blessings of having a grateful heart.

I first understood how expectations affect our happiness by watching movies. In the past I would go into movies often expecting it to be amazing, with wonderful acting, intriguing plots, unique characters, perfect special effects, and no cheesy or stupid scenes. As a result of these expectations I left a lot of movies disappointed. But recently, I have discovered that I enjoy a lot more movies when I have lower or more realistic expectations. I now go into movies with the sole expectation of being amused and entertained for a couple of hours, nothing more. I still experience disappointment from time to time (e.g Mission Impossible 12: Ghost Protocol, Snow White and the Crappy Actress, etc.), but more often than not I am entertained by the movies I watch (even that crappy ones give me a good laugh). I don't lower my expectations completely and anticipate hating movies, I just lowered them to a realistic and reasonable level. And as a result my movies watching experience is substantially more enjoyable.

Since discovering this secret I have tried to apply it all aspects of my life and I am now a happier and more grateful person. Expectations aren't bad things, they are a necessary part of life, but unrealistic expectations are not healthy to our happiness. They set us up for failure, defeat, and disappointment. If we are always expecting the very best out of life and other people we will almost always be disappointed and unhappy with what actually occurs in our lives. This does not mean that we can't hope for the best and be optimistic about life. It just means that we can't expect things to always work out exactly how we want, life just doesn't work that way. So one of the many keys to being happy and grateful is to have realistic and reasonable expectations. Life isn't perfect or "fair". Life is full of change and trials. The sooner we accept these truths the sooner we can set realistic expectations that allow us to embrace and enjoy the many things that life throws at us.

This mindset has changed my life. Now I more grateful and I can enjoy more of what life throws at me because I no longer expect outcomes that have almost no chance of occurring. Instead I enjoy the outcome that actually occurs. As soon as we stop expecting crazy and unrealistic things out of life and people we can be grateful for the outcomes that actually occur.

Simply speaking, just follow the old adage: Plan for the worst and hope for the best. Not only will we be better prepared for the future, but we will be happier as well.


Andrea said...

Amen & amen. I've really nailed having realistic expectations for movies; still having a hard time having realistic expectations when it comes to my "life plan". Completely different than I thought where I'd be.. still gotta be grateful though!

Braden Thompson said...

This is great! I've actually thought about this a lot. Even when I get a new job that seems like my dream job, I stop myself from getting completely stoked on it because I don't want to be let down. I like to think of it as the 'just chill and live your life' mindset. Be who you are regardless of what life throws your way. If you never have outrageous expectations you never have big let downs. Works out nicely!

Mallory Allen said...

Oh how I have missed your realistic perspective! We need to chat more often. As we experience more in our lives we begin to expect to be let down occasionally, but it just makes those moments of exceeded expectations that much sweeter.