There’s a lot of things that make us happier, and part of life is figuring out what they are.
We of course know that making more money and having more success has little positive impact on our happiness, so what does?
You guys know my answer by now—it’s all in the head.
And to keep feeling more amazing every day, we want to keep finding ways to change the way we see the world.
One way is to adjust our expectations.
The Secret of Low Expectations
According to happiness researcher Barry Schwartz, the secret to happiness is—Low Expectations.
This of course means, if you have high hopes then it’s easy to be disappointed and hard to be pleased, whereas if you’re happy eating out of a can of tuna, well…
I saw this in Buffalo last night.
Having been diverted from Newark to Buffalo and after sitting for 6 hours waiting to hear whether we’d get out or not, the boarding gate was a pretty somber affair.
For hours I observed the despair. With every cancelled flight, or each time they pushed back our potential departure time, you could feel the weight drop.
Then, at 7:30pm, the good news arrived—We were boarding, the gate erupted in cheers.
A 4 hour flight, stretched out to 12, was cause for massive celebration!
Don’t Lower Expectations
A reason I don’t like this advice is that it can be misinterpreted to mean “don’t give a shit,” when I think it means the opposite.
We should all live with the highest expectations for our lives.
We should expect great things. We should expect great successes. We should expect our families to do great, and our lives to be everything we dream them to be.
But we never want our happiness to be “attached” to those outcomes.
Quite frankly, we’re lucky to not be dead yet. You might have all the plans in the world, the greatest expectations for your life, but the only thing you can with certainty expect in life is it will end.
Everything else is on the table. Expecting your life to be amazing is a wonderful way to live, while, at the same time, letting go of making your happiness contingent on it.
A former colleague, in her early thirties, had a stroke that left her fully paralyzed. With every dream dashed, at first she wanted to die, but with the lowest expectations, she’s found happiness in life.
Want for everything; expect nothing, might be a way to put it.
After discussing this stuff with my seat-mate, he asked, “OK, how do I use this?”
I suggested that he note this in the happiness section of his daily exercises (which he now has), and then specifically figure out how he will practice this.
A way we conceived was to look forward a month in his life and see where his positive expectations might screw him.
This weekend, for instance, is his birthday party. He’s expecting to have an amazing night, although he remembers a few years back when… it wasn’t so amazing.
Great, we discussed. Imagine that night being the greatest of your life, while, at the same time, setting a ridiculously low bar for your expectations.
We decided that, just getting his friends together in a room automatically qualified for a great night, and that he would let go of any further expectations.
For my part, I’m going through my goals for the next month—imagining the best, but letting go of what I “need” them to be.
What about you? How might you use this?