There are ways to be happy: Improve your reality or lower your expectations.
This saying sounds infinitely wise and offers the ultimate solution, right? WRONG! Why on earth shouldn’t you have any expectations at all? (I know, it’s not exactly what it says, but bear with me!) There is another stupid saying claiming that by not expecting anything you can’t be disappointed. Well, guess what, wrong again. Having realistic expectations is important, insofar I agree with the quote above, but not having any expectations at all is just BS, if you pardon my French.
Low expectations vs. Realistic expectations
First off, this isn’t limbo and it isn’t pole vaulting either. Your expectations should be realistic, meaning: fulfilling them should actually be possible. Because if you couldn’t possible fulfill them, why try in the first place and set yourself up for disappointment? But also, if fulfilling them doesn’t require any effort, (and thus gives little to no satisfaction) why bother? You have to find a balance between overwhelming and underwhelming. And not having any expectations isn’t an option. Plus, I don’t think humans are capable of not expecting anything. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves and talk about why having low expectation is just as bad as having impossibly high expectations.
Most importantly: Even low expectations can lead to disappointment. Even more so, in my opinion, because they were so low and still remain unfulfilled. Let’s look at an example. Olivia and James live together and Olivia has to work while James is currently unemployed. Olivia comes home from a long day at work: “You only had to empty the dishwasher. Is that really too much to ask? Such a small task and you still couldn’t be bothered to complete it.” Way worse than James only managing to clean the bathroom and kitchen, when Olivia expected him to clean the entire flat, right? Because then Olivia would probably say: “Well, at least you got this done. I guess it might have been a bit too much after all.” Utter disappointment vs acquiescence. I don’t know about you, but I’d always opt for the latter.
So don’t lower your expectations to zero. Adjust them to reality and work on your reality. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment! Be honest with yourself and have a look at your goals. You can set them high, I’d even encourage you to do so, because then you have to push yourself to reach them, which is the most effective way to self improvement. But don’t place them firmly out of reach! Neither goals nor expectations should be unattainable. And if your expectations include other people, definitely don’t expect too much and be straight about them. Meaning: let the other person know what you expect and possibly what it means to you. Going back to Olivia and James: “James, could you please tidy the flat while I’m at work? My parents are going to drop by this evening and I would love them to experience our flat at its best. It is their first visit and I want them to feel welcome. I’m sorry I can’t lend you a hand, but this really means a lot to me.”
What do you think? Is it likely James will rise to the challenge and manage to please Olivia knowing what it means to her? I think so. And if you are upfront with yourself and others, you might find that both you and they, will rise to the challenge. Additionally, i would love to hear you view on the topic. How do you handle expectations?