Are Your Expectations Helping You Be Happier?

Our expectations play a very important role in our life. For instance, the way we manage our expectations heavily influences our ability to experience happiness and can even affect our health. As you get older and begin to think about your retirement years, this continues to be true. 

We set expectations all the time for ourselves, coworkers, family members, things we buy, vacations, relationships, and events we attend. Happiness cannot be achieved without expectations.

What happens when you set expectations? Your beliefs set the stage for your expectations. For instance, if you believe your marriage will be happy, you expect to be happy. Your daily happiness level can be measured by the number of expectations you meet. That is why your beliefs must be based on an achievable reality. 

Expectations can be unrealistic when they are too high, too low, or in some cases, there may be no expectations. In the work I do with people approaching retirement, I sometimes see people who have unrealistic expectations for themselves, others, or events.

When this happens, it can create an expectation gap that leads to unhappiness, low energy, and feelings of failure. Some people believe having no expectations is the best thing to do. However, having no expectations is unrealistic and a pessimistic approach because it creates a void. The void can lead to disappointment and block joy and pleasure. This is why it is important to manage your expectations if you are to be happy.

What you expect of yourself, people, and things or events makes all the difference in your level of happiness. To manage your expectations successfully, you need to understand what is in and out of your control. For instance, it is important to realize you can't change people, things or events. Sometimes you can influence them. However, when you can't, you need to adjust your expectations.

For example, having low expectations for your retirement is a recipe for feeling okay about yourself at any particular moment. However, it may not match your values or give you opportunities for meaningful activities. Likewise, having no expectations may feel safe at the time, yet create disappointment as it decreases your opportunities to experience joy and pleasure.

When life fails to meet our expectations over time, there is a physiological response to disappointment.

Your brain becomes unhappy and sends out a message of danger or threat. As the level of the neurotransmitter dopamine falls, you may experience real pain, anxiety, depression, or confusion. However, when you expect to have a healthy and meaningful retirement life and succeed, there's a rise in dopamine. You feel happier and enjoy greater personal satisfaction.

Learning to manage your expectations involves:

  • Being adaptive and flexible.
  • Having lower expectations for uncontrollable factors (the weather).
  • Having higher expectations for controllable factors (your personal standards).
  • Recognizing small victories and signs of progress.

When your expectations are realized, you are happier. When they aren't, you are bound to be more stressed and unhappy. It is up to you to carefully identify and assess your expectations. If they are unrealistic, be sure to adjust them appropriately. If you are stuck managing your expectations, let's talk. Contact me at mdpcoach@pattencoaching.com

How do your expectations affect you? I would live to hear from you.

Until next time,

Maurine

 

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