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Expectations and happiness

When we are kids, we are not used to the world. Everything amazes us. We have unbounded creativity, because we know of no rules.

Gradually, as we discover how we should play the game of life, we also discover the expected score we should obtain on it.

Society, consumer media, Hollywood productions, even friends and parents create expectations.

Dreaming of a world without those expectations is utopian. You may for example think that the fashion industry creates impossible-to-meet beauty expectations. Why wouldn’t they? It’s directly beneficial for their business. We can create systems where incentives are not that evil, but there will always be people trying to take advantage of others.

When we are kids, we dream big. I remember how I used to think that high school in Spain would be like those high school shows produced in Hollywood. Boom, myth busted. You hit reality. And you hit it at a very early age. Biting the sand is hard, especially when you are young and cannot rationalize why things are the way they are.

Over the years we stop dreaming big, discovering the reality around us. We meet evil people, we meet inept people, and we meet ourselves. It’s hard to satisfy the dreams of your inner kid.

We need to balance that utopian dream, the best case scenario. We need to meet the other extreme, the worst case scenario.

Thinking of a worst case scenario is helpful because:

  • It’s reassuring. You figure out that that scenario is not that bad. At least for a big portion of people in the first world, who usually have a safety net.
  • That helps you grow your risk appetite. That will enable you to do great things.

The best case scenario should remain there, it’s also helpful:

  • It makes you look forward to something. Without hope, there is no life.
  • It’s a guiding light. Who you are, and who you will become, can be defined by your utopian dream.

You shouldn’t expect more than the worst case scenario. That way, you will appreciate everything that comes on top of it.

In the end, as a very good friend put it:

happiness = reality - expectations

Based on that formula, a life motto could be:

Expect less, achieve more

It’s easier written than done. If you are a very ambitious person, you will always expect more and more from yourself. However, coming back to this helps create little moments of realization.