Wednesday, June 25, 2008

On happiness and low expectations

Happiness is the destination in pursuit of which, most of our journeys begin. The promotion, the new car, an orderly home. The underlying assumption: we get it, we happy. The flip side: we don't get, not so happy. Is happiness less about what we seek to attain and more about the expectations we hold for ourselves?

According to the Danes, yes. 60 minutes has discovered the happiest country on earth, which to my surprise was not a country with plentiful coconuts and straw huts on the beach, but was instead, Denmark. Why are they happier? According to the Danes, its all about expectations. Low ones, that is. If you expect less and get less: Its expected. But if you expect less and get more: Yippee! If you expect much and fail, you'll be unhappy, ergo, expect less, be happier.

At first I found this idea preposterous. If you don't dream big you won't achieve big! I thought of all the goals I made in life, had I expected not to get them, would I have worked so hard?

Then today, as I reached home at 6:30pm, made dinner by 7:30, ate by 8:00, cleaned up after dinner by 8:30pm and then worked out and showered and finally sat down, I looked at the clock and it was 10:00. 10:00pm and all I did was feed myself, exercise and shower? What about the cupboard to organize? The editing of my novel? The second load of laundry? The Goodwill sorting? The phone call to my mother? I sincerely expected to get all this done today! Though I'm not sitting in a corner howling mournfully, as I stared at the clock I felt a bit disappointed at all the things I expected to accomplish yet remained undone for another day.

Maybe that's part of what the Danes meant by low expectations. I expect a lot out of 24 hours and each day I feel a teensy bit disappointed that all my 1,000,001 things did not get done. I think the solution is not to stop making goals or having expectations but not taking them so personally when things don't pan out. The goal failed, it doesn't mean we failed.

Besides, sometimes what we expect, we shouldn't. I've seen that those who don't mind when things don't go according to expectations, and who understand fully that any control we have over our lives, over most things in it anyways, is illusory seem more content. Maybe part of happiness is living your life like a tourist, observing enjoying, taking mental photographs. Maybe part of happiness is being curious what life will give you next, and accepting that it may not be what you expect.

Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens-Khalil Gibran

6 comments:

mystic said...

Interesting....today is June 24 but your post is June 25 !!

Happiness is not an objective but attitide in life...so true !!!

Anonymous said...

I like!

Tee said...

Good one. It's a difficult balance and ones disposition is most definitely affected by culture.

Dahlia said...

your quote by KG is so true- your perception of your life is as important as what happens to you

TRAVIS VINDICH said...

The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.

Nick said...

Hi,

Great article!

I completely agree, expectations play a key role regarding how happy we are. I recently thought about this too. I invite you to have a look at Role and importance of “expectations” in being happy and tell me what you think!

Thanks, Nick

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