For a Happier 2018, Change Just One Thing: Your Expectations


Happy New Year!

If you wonder what the photo above has to do with this post, read on.

It’s the dawn of a new year, and for many, new resolutions for change. Most people set their sights on ways to be happier and healthier. Maybe you vow to drink less, exercise more, or stay better connected with your friends and family. But will your resolutions really lead to greater happiness?

For most of us, following through on our resolutions won’t be enough to make us happier day-to-day. To understand what it takes to be happier, it helps to begin with an understanding of where our un-happiness comes from.

People are happy when reality turns out to be as good, or better than they imagined. In other words, when our expectations are met or exceeded, we are pleased. When life turns out to be less or worse than pictured, we feel disappointed, let down, and unhappy.

But then it’s important to note that we all tend to have pretty unrealistic expectations. When there is no traffic, I can drive to the office in about 30 minutes. However, it routinely takes quite a lot longer in morning rush hour. If my expectation is always 30 minutes, I’m going to suffer a lot of disappointment and only the rare sense of satisfaction. Expecting it to take 45-50 minutes for the commute means that if I get there in 35, it feels like my luck has hit an upturn.

If you’ve ever met a person who appears truly happy, he wasn’t necessarily the one with the most perfect life. In fact, if you think about the truly happy folks you know, they usually aren’t the ones who are rich and beautiful, they are the ones who find beauty in the little things. The happiest guy around is the one who is most able to accept his world just as it is right now.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Sure, that’s easy for some people, but I’ve got real problems!” In truth, moments of happiness can be part of every life, even when things aren’t easy in the slightest. I recall a lovely patient (she was treated for anxiety) who experienced happiness and beauty while she was dying of cancer. She was deeply grateful for the love and kindness that surrounded her. How did she find beauty in such terrible circumstances? She resisted the temptation to compare her cancer reality to a healthy reality, and instead she took each event as it came.

Even for people struggling with illness, moments of happiness or well-being don’t have to be elusive. Expectations can dictate greater or lesser degrees of suffering.

There are pleasant surprises all around us, if we can only accept them as they come. Take for example the picture attached to this post: I found it while searching through stock photos, and it was pleasantly entertaining. It’s a little unexpected for sure, but I hope you accepted it with a smile!

Happy 2018.

Posted on January 1, 2018 .