On expectations

Yesterday at The School of Life Festival I attended a mini class on ‘expectations’. You know, those tricky imaginations that we all have about what future events are supposed to be like.

It was good to be reminded of the basic fact that expectations can be a trap. Because many times things don’t go the way we expected, or people do not act according to our expectations. This leads to disappointment and frustration.

The statement in yesterday’s class was: “Happiness does not only depend on reality, but also on your expectations.” Or like William James said: “Happiness is reality minus expectations.” I think there’s a lot of truth in that.

If reality is better than your expectations, this benefits your happiness. If reality is worse than your expectations, the effect on your happiness will be negative. If this happens, ask yourself three questions: What did I expect? Where did that expectation come from? And was it a realistic expectation?

Seneca teaches us: temper your expectations. We have no control about most things that happen around us. So don’t hold on to what you think reality should be like. Don’t expect too much and save yourself the disappointment and frustration.

Recently I read somewhere: “Keep your standards high and your expectations low.” I love that one and I will try to keep it in mind everytime I notice myself having expectations.