Expectations vs. Happiness

We’re wired to expect the world to be brighter and more meaningful and more obviously interesting than it actually is. And when we realize that it isn’t, we start looking around for the real world.Lev Grossman, The Magicians


A recent New York Times article points out that the way we manage our expectations heavily influences our ability to experience happiness in life and work. Several examples of medical interventions demonstrate how patient expectations and sense of hope can affect health outcomes.

In the work I do coaching and helping people, I hear about disappointments all the time. Rarely do people come into coaching with realistic expectations. They either set the bar too high or not high enough.

We consciously and un consciously set expectations all the time: for ourselves, coworkers, family members, items we buy and even the movies we see. Our internal mindset/perception relentlessly measures performance against our assumptions and expectations.

Expectations can have a profound effect on our energy and drive. There are two variables in the equation: what we expect from others and what we expect from ourselves. How we view our experiences is critical to the way we pursue our dreams, goals and achieve success.

Happiness cannot be achieved without expectations, but our beliefs must be based on a reality within our. Your daily happiness level can ultimately be measured by the number of expectations you meet.

Unrealistic expectations create an expectation gap, according to James P. Leahy, author of Bridging the Expectation Gap: The Key to Happiness. This gap leads to unhappiness and feelings of failure.

If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed. Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar


If you’ve fallen into an expectation gap, maybe it’s time for an expectation adjustment. I’d love to hear from you, leave a comment.


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