Expectations and Happiness

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the power of expectations. Or more like the downside of having too many of them. I’ve decided that one of the biggest contributors to unhappiness is when expectations don’t align with reality.

When I was pregnant with David, Jake and I took a baby prep class and a month after our kids were due, we all came back to the same hospital to meet and talk about our babies and how things went, etc. We noticed, at the time, that the couples who had an unexpected problem (however small it was) felt like their hospital/birth experience was terrible and in the cases where everything went smootly, the parents thought the hospital was amazing. There might have been some cases where the staff varied enough to cause this, but I really think it had more to do with the alignment of expectations vs reality. If you go into it thinking you’ll have a one night stay at the hospital and end up having to stay 3 days, suddenly it’s the hospital’s fault or something went wrong. Instead of focusing on the good, like how your baby is healthy, you focus on how things didn’t go as planned.

This is true in the smallest things in life like getting caught in a red light when you expect to be somewhere at some particular time. It’s also true in the biggest things like career, love, home, etc.

I’ve been trying to figure out what this means to me. Do I lower my expectations? Do I purposefully not set expectations? But aren’t expectations also a bit of a driving-force behind acheivement? How are they different from goals? I am not entirely sure of the answers. But I did decide that I will spend more time thinking about the crux of the issue and try to figure out what matters most to me and hope that, that particular thing goes well and try to refrain from having any more expectations than that. So, for example, concentrate on having a healthy and happy baby and let go of getting to control the timinig, location, and other, smaller issues.Or focus on getting somewhere safely even if it means I have to be a few minutes late. Cause safety matters more. Spend the extra few seconds to hug or calm David down even if it means I get that much less sleep.

I guess it’s a way of learning that you can’t have it all and you should stop expecting it. And it’s also taking your expectations, especially the subconscious ones where you just take things for granted, and living each day more aware of them and making sure you’re not expecting more than what’s realistic and, more significantly, more than what matters.

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