How Expectations Affect Our Happiness
It’s normal to feel disappointment when things don’t turn out the way that we expected them to. This is especially true for those of us who consider ourselves to be optimists. We tend to hope for the best outcome in every situation, but it can’t always work out that way.
Many disappointments may be predictable and preventable if we just take the time to properly understand the situations that we face. However other disappointments may be totally unavoidable. We need to learn to differentiate between these two categories so we can know how to act and react appropriately.
Frequently disappointment happens because our expectations were not realistic to begin with. By learning how to better identify those unrealistic expectations, we can also learn how to reduce our chances of being disappointed.
Sometimes an outcome that appears to be realistic to us, may be unrealistic to someone else, or simply just not be realistic at all. This can be a particular problem when our expectations involve the behavior, attitudes or abilities of others.
Why We Should Try to Avoid Disappointment
One important reason to manage our expectations and avoid disappointment is to be more in control of our level of happiness. The less disappointment we experience in our lives, the happier we are.
Another important reason is that frequently our expectations place demands, stress or burdens on other people. This can create a lot of unnecessary stress and discord in our relationships. The more disappointed we are, the more unhappy and strained our relationships will be.
Psychiatrists have also observed that people who are frequently disappointed are at greater risk of experiencing physical and emotional problems. These individuals seem to have a greater propensity for headaches, excessive perspiration, and gastrointestinal problems than people who report having experienced fewer or less frequent disappointments. In extreme cases, being very disappointed for prolonged periods of time can lead to chronic physical or emotional problems.
How We Can Reduce Our Chances of Disappointment
1. Changing Our Expectations
Our expectations are the primary contributors to our disappointments. We need to learn to objectively evaluate our expectations of ourselves and of those around us. Are our expectations realistic? Are they reasonable? Asking for feedback from other people will help us to determine whether we are being realistic or not. If others are consistently telling us that we our expectations are unreasonable, then we need to seriously look at changing them.
2. Adjusting the Way We Think
While there are many things that are outside of our control, one thing that is entirely under our control is the way we think. One very important change we can make is to stop dwelling on our past disappointing experiences. Continuously rethinking and reliving our past disappointments won’t change them. All it will do is create unneeded stress for ourselves and for those around us. By letting go of those disappointments and instead focusing on the present we can make ourselves happier and improve our relationships with those who may have disappointed us in the past.
3. Becoming Better Communicators
We have little control over anyone or anything other than ourselves. But by learning to communicate better with others we can help to reduce or even sometimes eliminate disappointing situations. Frequently someone will disappoint us when we don’t clearly understand each other’s needs and situations. If we become better listeners and make sure that we have clearly understood the other person by repeating what we think we heard, then we can reduce the chance of disappointment right from the beginning.
How We Benefit from Controlling Our Expectations
1. We Allow Ourselves and Those Around Us to Grow
By not having to deal with the pressure of expectations, we can feel free to pursue our dreams and aspirations without the fear of disappointing ourselves. We will feel as free as we did when we were children to try new pursuits without the fear of being judged if we fail. Similarly, if those around us don’t feel pressured by our expectations, they will experience that same level of freedom to experiment and grow.
2. We Appreciate Others for Who They Are
By eliminating preconceptions and expectations of others, we learn to accept them just as they are. Not only will they be happier when they are around us, but we will also benefit from having less stressful and more rewarding relationships.
3. We Stop Judging
Whether our expectations were placed on ourselves or those around us, those expectations always came along with judgment on our part. Every situation and outcome was either right or wrong, good or bad, acceptable or not. Judgement brings a lot of stress and negative energy into our lives. Eliminating it helps us to be more positive and happier.
4. We Accept Ourselves Fully
Just as we remove preconceptions and expectations from others, we do the same from ourselves. We enjoy the relief that we experience as a result. We now no longer have the fear of disappointing ourselves that may have stood in the way of pursuing our passions and achieving our ultimate goals.
We should not look at controlling our expectations as an act of “giving in” or “giving up.” It doesn’t mean that we need to live by lower standards or to stop setting goals. We can still hope for the best; we can still ask for what we want. But when we adjust our expectations to be more aligned with reality, we are much less likely to experience disappointment when we don’t get what we asked for.
We should learn to accept and appreciate what life brings us, and to try to be happy regardless of the outcome. If we realize that there is always another opportunity just around the corner, we won’t put all our hopes and dreams into this one. And then we won’t be disappointed when this most recent one doesn’t turn out the way we hoped it might. We will be happier for it.