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Expectations, reality and happiness

One of the most interesting perspectives on life that I've come across has been on the relationship between expectations, reality and happiness.

Happiness = Reality / Expectations

Reality is something that we don't have a lot of control over. At least in comparison to the amount of control we have over our own expectations. Hence, we can drastically increase the chances of our happiness by reducing our expectations. This way, the same reality will lead to a happier outcome as it has a higher probability of exceeding our expectations.

While this is an interesting and practical principle, and one I actively follow on many an occasion, it is also one that is in directly in conflict with another principle that is really important to me - to strive to constantly learn and get better.

I cannot imagine not wanting to raise the bar on my work (where work qualifies everything that I do). And I'm sure a lot of people cannot do so, either. And even if they don't, they are certainly not actively looking to lower the bar on their work.

In other words, this simply means that, by striving to continue to learn and get better, I'm constantly raising the expectations I have of myself.

While these seem like contradictory principles to follow, the way I seem to have reconciled is by deciding how much of the reality can be influenced by me.

If I can influence a good portion of reality, like my health or my quality of work or the quality of relationships I maintain, then I tend to raise the expectations constantly.

However, if I cannot influence a good portion of reality, like how someone else behaves towards me, I tend to drastically lower my expectations.

This is a good way to reconcile the two principles and hold them both without cognitive dissonance. 

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