A simple equation really; one that comes from a book by Jodi Picoult that caused me to ponder on how our experiences are able to influence our views and the way we respond to the people around us.
“A mathematical formula for happiness: Reality divided by Expectations. There were two ways to be happy: improve your reality or lower your expectations.” – Jodi Picoult, Nineteen Minutes
If I look back at times in my life where I have been absolutely devastated or disappointed by something I can see that it is related to the expectations that I had for that particular situation. Some of these things are ridiculous like just expecting someone to do or say something and they don’t. I also look at some of the best things I have done and often it was because my expectations were so low for that particular experience that the reality far exceeded anything I could think of.
After reading this book I looked critically at my life and the expectations I had for things – my relationships, my study and my fitness. I realised that I had extremely high expectations that were actually bringing me down when I was unable to achieve them in the time I had given myself. I came to the conclusion that I had to make a change; for some things I did decide to lower my expectations – I would rather be relaxed than stressed all of the time; and others I decided to change my reality – I made up a proper workout schedule with set exercises and routines.
Now I don’t believe that this situation is going to apply to everything in life; we can’t troop through life believing that if we have low expectations for everything we are going to have great happiness. I think that in order to achieve our goals (or greatness) we do need to push ourselves out of our comfort zone at times and set high expectations for ourselves so that we have something to work towards but I also think that in situations where it feels like everything is going pear shaped we need to have the skills to critically look at our expectations for that situation to get to the bottom of why we are unhappy.