Happiness = Reality – Expectations

The start of the academic year is always a very crazy time! Usually it slows down somewhat once we get close to Christmas but this year it hasn’t. Thinking back I realise that every year gets crazier and crazier, always trying to get more done in less time; and it is always difficult to find a balance between what you expect from life and what life throws at you.
Being happy and satisfied with one’s life seems to be a luxury few people can afford. The other day an article arrived in my inbox and the title intrigued me: Happiness = Reality – Expectations. It is a very interesting article, those interested may find it at http://99u.com/workbook/18869/happiness-reality-expectations. However, the gist of it is as follows… People of our parents’ generation were born after the end of various wars, depressions and the like. They started their working life expecting to need to work hard, for a number of years, simply to be able to own their own house and live a comfortable life. But, as they entered their career days, job opportunities (and all other sorts of opportunities) were booming and most of our parents achieved far more than they ever dreamed was possible. Definitely far more than their parents had achieved. In consequence they had far more than they had during their childhood, far more than they expected and were, in the main, happy with their achievements in life. So for them Reality – Expectations returned a positive outcome, sometimes a very positive outcome.

But the situation is very different currently and has been for a while. People born in the 70s, 80s and 90s grew up knowing that they could be whatever they wanted to be, they could do whatever they set their minds to. And automatically, a lot of people assumed that success would be the order of the day and they would be successful early. We started life with very high expectations. Like us, many other people simultaneously started life with the same expectations. And also simultaneously the job market started dwindling, the excellent opportunities were fewer and further apart and we all found ourselves having to work much harder than we expected to achieve, at least initially, far less than we thought our due. And so for the younger generation Reality – Expectations returns a negative, impacting on our ability to be happy and stay happy. Those people who manage to stay happy are those who have managed to open their eyes and get realistic. They have reined in their expectations and as the original article says have done 3 things:

1) remained wildly ambitious,  but realised that ambition needs to be paired up with hard work

2) stopped thinking that they are special, and realised they can be special one day, it is just a matter of persevering and working hard

3) ignored what their peers are saying about their great, successful lives and focused on living their own lives. After all it is the nature of the human being to try and paint his or her life in rosier colours to try and garner the respect (and sometimes the envy) of others.

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