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How Having Low Expectations Opens the Path to Happiness

by Roveen Anyango
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When you look around you, you see a world in which many of us want to get the most out of what we have now. We have big goals and big visions, big dreams which we wish to fulfill. But what if I told you that one of the important steps to being happy is having low expectations?

Let me explain.

Look back at a time when you experienced your biggest disappointment. It could be in a relationship, your career or even simply in your goals. Why did it hurt so much? You see, our expectations often affect how we experience things. A study in 2015 showed that going into something with low expectations and having them dismantled gave people extra satisfaction, thus making them happier. The opposite was also true – high expectation led to worse experiences and thus unhappiness.

Why high expectations ruin things

Expectations are beliefs that we have about the future. We have expectation about everything in our life. However, what happens when we have unrealistic and too high expectations is that, as life does not always go according to our expectations, we often end up bitter, devastated, full of regrets and grief, deep in misery when our high expectations are not met.

When your expectation is that your crush should like you back because you like them, what happens when they do not like you back? Heartbreak, self-loathing, regret.

But do low expectations mean lack of ambition?

There is a difference between having low expectations and lacking ambition. Low expectation is about not expecting too much from things you have no control over. Low expectations are what help you set realistic goals, because you are aware of your limitations and the limitations of the world around you. You have ambition, but you are also realistic about how to achieve it. Lacking ambition is having no goals whatsoever.

When you have low expectations, then it means that any experience that you have will exceed your expectations and that will make you happy.

How to have low expectations

Having low expectations boils down to understanding a few things:

  1. Control – While you do have some control over your life, some things are beyond your control. To set your expectation, have a list of things that you can control and those you cannot control. Let go of expectations on things you cannot control. For example, you cannot make any company hire you. However, you can update your CV, gain valuable working experience and make job applications. Your expectation should end with your job application, what happens after is beyond you.
  2. Contentment – Sure, you could have more and you could be more, but how much are you happy with what you have? The beauty of life is that it is often the smallest things that make us happy. Spending time with a loved one, having a good rest, being able to meet your needs and afford a few luxuries here and there. When you are contented, you appreciate what you have and have no expectations beyond your control.

Once more, low expectations are not about lacking goals or ambition. Rather, it is about knowing your reality and adjusting your expectation accordingly. You will be happier that way.

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