Reality Vs. Expectations Dilemma

Happy Happy Day!!!

Let us begin with an equation for happiness!     Reality/Expectations=Happiness

Now you may be thinking to yourself “WOW this man is a genius!  How has no one come up with this yet?!?” As much as I would love to claim this as my own, I can’t.

“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

When I saw this I had a similar reaction to what I am assuming you had above. This is one of the most practical quotes on happiness and it comes with an equation to back it up! It breaks down happiness into simple terms.

You may have such high expectations of yourself that it may not be possible to realistically meet them in the time and effort that you put in. I would never suggest to someone that they should just lower their expectations, but I would suggest taking a good hard look at your expectations and ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Is it realistic?
  2. Are my timelines achievable?
  3. Do I actually want this?

If you answer no to any of these I would suggest a re-calculation of your expectations and go from there. In my opinion, lowering expectations is in no way lowering your quest to be your best self or striving for excellence. It means that you are not bogged down when you do not of reach the imaginary idea of the end point or feel bad when you fail to meet it. Lowering your expectations to an achievable level sets you free or detaches you from the outcome and allows you to magnify the happiness and engagement along the journey. You can still dream big and have high expectations, just make sure you have realistic goals to achieve them. It is your choice to get caught up with impossible expectations or constantly strive to do the best you can and enjoy every minute along the way.

You may be thinking to yourself now, “This guy is just a Debbie Downer that doesn’t want me to achieve greatness and reach these lofty life expectations”


I want nothing but the best for you: I want you to be a bazillionaire that is surrounded by loving family and friends without a care in the world, being your happiest most fulfilled self.  All I am saying is don’t put so much pressure on achieving all these miraculous things tomorrow. Be realistic, set goals and I know you can achieve whatever you set your mind to.

The second part of this equation is reality. Now there isn’t much to be said on this that you probably haven’t heard or read some place else so I’ll keep it brief. The best way, in my opinion, to improve or change reality if you are not satisfied with it is to determine what you would like it to be and then take action towards that new idea. This comes right back to your expectations. If you do not like the reality you live in, you have to have the gumption to go out and change it.

They say perception is reality. I have done some work in my life where all I dealt with were people that lived life that I could only dream about. While I had a lot of fun doing that, it also skewed my perception of reality. I began to flounder and struggle in life. It wasn’t until a good friend of mine re-grounded me that I began to realize that life was pretty good and my expectations had just gotten out of whack.

If you are having a hard time with reality, take some time and do something for others. Go volunteer at a homeless shelter or animal shelter. Help those less fortunate than you and you will be amazed at how that helps you gain a better grasp of reality and what is actually important in life.

“It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy. ”― Lucille Ball

A lot of times we run after success, fame and glory thinking that the eventual end point will end up making us a lot happier. The problem with this approach is that there will always be something bigger and seemingly better to aspire for and desire. Have you ever had the experience where you really wanted something and when you got it, the pleasure and happiness were short-lived and left you wondering if that was it? True lasting happiness comes with following your path and your unique journey and gathering skills and experiences and little pleasures along the way.

Have a clear understanding of what makes you really happy and what appears to make you happy. When you are clearly able to distinguish between the two, you have come a long way in embracing a happy life. You will have a clear perception of reality and you will have realistic expectations.

You may have this picture of what happiness looks like based on what others are telling you or what companies are advertising and wanting you to buy. But if you ask yourself the question: “What makes you really happy?” And then honestly answer it, you will have made a great start as Lucille points out.

“You must be the best judge of your own happiness.”― Jane Austen, Emma

Now, I will leave you with one final quote and a thought.

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs–even though checkered by failure–than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt

We talked about changing your reality through actions. We talked about setting realistic expectations. That does not mean you are not capable of amazing things or you should not try to do great things in your life. Remember! You are destined for great things! You can do hard things! And if you live on the sidelines you will have wasted away and never known true happiness. Go out and do hard things but just don’t let your expectations cloud your judgement.

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