From an early age, we learn to wait for the desired result every time we take action. When we were good kids; we would get a reward. If we helped our parents they would hug us. If we give candy to another kid; we would have a new friend! It sounds natural and simple, doesn’t it?
Even if having expectations is a normal process. It's not fun when they're very high! To anticipate a specific outcome and getting something completely different can be very frustrating! Like when I was a kid I used to believe that I would have a car, a house, the ideal partner and the perfect job by the time I was 23. Well, bad news… things aren’t going as expected and I know I'm not the only one!
Nat Ware shares his interesting point of view in the TED Talk titled Why we're unhappy -- the expectation gap. Ware gives an interesting explanation of how having unrealistic expectations is a determining factor when it comes to happiness.
During the TED Talk, the speaker mentions that we are unhappy because the expectations exceed reality and we can see a few daily examples: we watch Instagram models, but we don't look like them. We watch a romantic movie and the main character looks perfect after waking up, but when we wake up we know we are a mess. We watch a burger ad and we think “That burger is so big that I won't eat anything else for the rest of the day!”, but we end up eating two because they are way smaller in real life.
Nat Ware talks about 3 different types of expectations based on the way we create them:
We jump to conclusions we have made up in our heads! Our imagination is overwhelming when compared to a reality that doesn't fulfill our expectations and that leads to frustration.
2. Those around you
We compare our reality to others. Like when we look at our friend and think “If they can do it, I can get that or something better!”. Or when we are with not very good looking people, we are happier because we feel more attractive when compared to them.
3 Past experiences
We are happy when we think we are better than before. We have the feeling that we have improved.
It turns out that being happy can be tricky. Since our imagination, environment and past experiences shape the way we think, feel and what we expect to happen.
Social media makes things harder. We all have spent hours looking at pictures of our friends. Even when we are happy, they are living their best lives and we end up feeling frustrated because that's not the reality we are experiencing. When the truth is that we only get to see the highlights of the whole movie. We don't see the behind the scenes. We don't see them posting “struggling to pay the bills! Yay!”. We don't see them crying until falling asleep. They have dark moments too! But they decide not to show them and we decide to believe the highlights are the only thing that matters.
On the other hand, the professor Yasmin Centeno explains in her video: Expectations explained using the word crush, that when we say we have a crush on someone, we idealize them. Sometimes we don't even know them. But we “know” we like them. And then when we finally talk to each other we realize that it would have been better if they had stayed as a crush. Because they didn't fulfill our expectations.
Centeno explains that there are 2 keys to having realistic expectations:
1 Ask yourself “What do I want and why?”
We can easily get obsessed with any goal and then we discover that we didn't want that; why does this happen? Because when we have a dream we don't want that specific outcome, but the feeling that comes with it. Sometimes we want a specific person in our life because we think that's the only person who can be our friend, who can love us and respect us. When in reality we want someone because we want to be loved and we are focused on that guy because we believe he's the one who can make it.
Other times we want a career not because we have a passion for studying, but because of the money we could get with certain degrees. Sometimes we want a business: “in that way, nobody will tell me what to do and when to do it”. But all you want is freedom. And the list goes on. That's why you need to ask yourself “What do I want and why?”
Flexibility: Sometimes things don't happen exactly as we had imagined them
You’ll get a job you have always dreamed of, you'll get an amazing partner, your business will be successful but try (please do!) to be patient and flexible with it! Sometimes things don't happen exactly as we imagined them or exactly when we want them, that doesn't mean they'll never happen or that you're doing it wrong! But having open expectations instead of a single version of your dream will make things easier!
Let's suppose you would like to have a boyfriend but there aren't many guys where you live, so you imagine you'll meet him in Paris at a cafe. He’ll be mesmerized by you and you'll get married after dating for a year. Then you get to meet a nice guy in your town, but instead of enjoying the date, all you can think of is “this cafe doesn't look like Parisian cafes that I've seen in movies”. Can you see it? It could have been the love of your life, but a unique vision of things didn't let it happen!
It can seem a bit overwhelming, but we have to learn to set realistic expectations. We have been trained to have very high expectations for ourselves. But we are all humans. We make mistakes. We cry. We laugh and we try to discover the best way to be happy. It's not an easy task! But it will be worth it!
Images: Pexels, College Humor