Expectations and Reality: The Pros and Cons of Each
There is a lot of talk of how to stay happy and mentally healthy. Some will boast that having high expectations will bring forth great results. Some will suggest that having low expectations or no expectations will save you from heart ache. While others will insist that staying present in the here and now is the only way to experience happiness and that reality is what it is, our expectations just muddy it. Ultimately, the real nexus of happiness is somewhere in between the two.
Expectations Can Breed Disappointment
Imagine a child who wants a bicycle. They don’t want any old bicycle- they want a specific bike that one of their friends have. The child gets a bicycle that is not the same brand or style they wanted.
The Bad: They disregard the fact that they have any bicycle and react to the fact that the expectations for the specific bicycle were not met. The resulting feeling is something like “Yeah, but…”.
The Good: They disregard the fact that it is not exactly what they asked for and focus on the fact that they now have a bike. This shows a flexibility and appreciation for what they have.
Expectations Detract From The Present
Imagine you go on a vacation. You have planned for this vacation to be a romantic getaway. The day comes and you are so excited! When you arrive at the resort, it is raining, which scuttles most of the planned activities.
The Bad: You get angry and begin to demand your money back. Your mood is compromised and romance is far from your mind. You blame the weather for ruining your getaway.
The Good: You regroup and realize that indoor activities were the point of a romantic getaway.
Reality is Depressing
If you are reading this, you probably love the space lifestyle and long for the day that you could visit the cosmos.
The Bad: Thousands of overly qualified people apply for the space program and get rejected. You don’t even have the minimum qualifications.
The Good: You don’t have to go to space to live this lifestyle or to engage in space lifestyle related activities. You can still enjoy space and all its awesomeness.
Reality is Not Fair
If you are an adult, you have experienced the crushing truth that life is not fair. Life is not tidy. The good guy does not always win, and the bad guy does not always get punished.
The Bad: This is the realm of cynicism and this is the place where happiness goes to die. Focusing on the lack of fairness in the world leaves a person feeling hopeless. And, sure, cynics sound cool but their way of thinking produces extremely negative feeling patterns that will ultimately lead to depression and or anxiety.
The Good: Keep your attention on yourself and your home. If you chose to focus the same amount of attention and effort on yourself and your home as you do on your work or others, what could accomplish?
Reality: A Collective Hunch
Lily Tomlin, in her one woman play The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe said that “Reality is nothing but a collective hunch.” You can choose to be upset or shift to a way of being that makes you feel better. If you stay flexible, you may not always get what you want but you can allow yourself to see a way to appreciate what you have. There is plenty of wiggle room in that hunch that is reality. Your choice is how you want to see it.