Op-Ed: Do High Expectations from Life and People Lead to Long-Term Unhappiness?

While many people’s level of happiness is fixed, making some people naturally happy most of the time and others naturally unhappy most of the time, a big factor that plays into people feeling down and lost a lot of the time is having expectations that are too high. For example, if two students got a B on a test, and one was satisfied with it and the other was very upset, why would that be? Because of high expectations. One student expected to receive an A grade, so they couldn’t be happy with anything less. This applies to every aspect of people’s lives: work, education, relationships, personal goals and achievements, family and friends, etc. Those who expect a lot out of everything will often be disappointed. However, those who come into any situation not expecting much will be pleasantly surprised and joyful that things worked out even better than they expected. Always expect the least, and you will feel like you received the most. 

It’s important to set realistic and attainable goals. Many people expect a lot from life and other people, making them constantly disappointed once reality hits them. For example, many people have really high expectations when it comes to finding a partner. They want someone rich, successful, athletic, good-looking and practically perfect, and when it’s hard to find someone like that, they get frustrated. Another example is having high expectations from work after getting a fancy college degree, like a Ph.D. Some people make the mistake of investing too much into one thing. Imagine someone spending years and tons of money on getting a Ph.D. or another high-level degree, thinking it’d make them respected and well-paid from a good job, and then, when they enter the job market, they get hit with the reality that their degree isn’t worth as much as they thought, and companies prefer to higher less-educated young people that’ll work for them without demanding as much money as someone who graduated with a prestigious degree, leading them to become disillusioned and hopeless.

Many people also have a hard time accepting reality. Some people just can’t deal with the fact that they’ll never be successful in certain fields because they don’t have enough talent or skills. Some people are adamant that they’re good singers even when they’re tone deaf, or think they can dance very well when they look like a fish flopping on the floor, but they just can’t accept that they’re bad at what they believe they’re good at or like to do. 

Think about your level of expectations and adjust them to keep them realistic. Review your expectations periodically and make sure they’re not too high or too low. It might help you avoid unhappiness in the long term.