image1 image2 image3


The practical way of lowering expectations and raising happiness

"Some things are up to us, and some things are not up to us."
Epictetus writes this in his handbook. He says this in the context of understanding what we ought to concern ourselves with and what we should not be bothered by.

While running a business, it is pointless to worry about the amount of taxes that need to be paid unless there is something we can do about it - like move the headquarters to a different country with a lower tax rate. If that is not a possibility, no matter how much we worry about it, we still need to pay the same tax rate.

Happiness is reality over expectations. And there is a thin line between goals and expectations. While it is true that we can increase our happiness by reducing expectations, we find it hard work to completely disregard what the society and the people around us think about us in order to lower those expectations too much.

The more practical way of lowering expectations is to internalize what Epictetus said. Once we understand that some things are up to us, and some things are not up to us, it becomes a guideline for us to lower or raise our expectations.

Some things are not up to us. While I know that performing well on my job will lead to a good bonus and a promotion, there are cases when those rewards don't see the light of day despite good performance on my part because the overall company performance was lower or for some other reason. Despite playing at my very best and scoring goals, I could end up on the losing side of a football match.

The expectations around such outcomes are the ones to lower. Because it isn't completely in our control to influence those outcomes. As a result, lowering expectations on these fronts will raise happiness levels irrespective of the reality.

Some things are up to us. I can increase the odds of being promoted by performing diligently and consistently. I can increase the odds of winning a football match by paying attention to the tactics of opponents, enhancing my strengths and overcoming my weaknesses, and preparing for the match. I can increase the odds of preventing disease by eating healthy and exercising regularly.

The expectations around such outcomes are the ones to raise. Because we have some level of control over influencing the outcomes and by raising our expectations on the efforts we put in (what is in our control) and meeting them, we can disproportionately raise the reality, thus increasing happiness.

Rather than raising expectations on outcomes that we don't have complete control over, like wanting to be famous or a millionaire, we need to lower them and raise expectations on our efforts instead.

Share this: