Today’s trending news story on Google was about scientists discovering that our happiness depends on our expectations. So you are happier when things go better than expected (imagine a positive performance appraisal session with your boss) and you are less happier when things go worse than expected (imagine a family social event going wrong).
Typical of the scientists, they have even created a complicated mathematical equation to incorporate the impact of various factors. It reminded me of the nightmares of doing Integration problems at school. Really how dumb can we get if we need scientists to evolve a Bayesian formula (it is a nice little theory about expectations of expectations) to explain happiness. It used to be fairly easy for our parents to figure this one out using some good ol’ horse sense and they enjoyed far stabler emotional lives and satisfaction than us.
And I just love the scientist quoting that it does not mean that we will be more happy if we have lower expectations – apparently the ‘kick’ factor will lose all the fizz. Oh really, guess some of these guys need a ‘Dummies’ guide to human behavior.
For an ordinary Joe on the street what I am about to state will broadly apply. Man is a social animal and craves for acceptance and adulation in his circle. His circles broadly get grouped into two categories – the ‘Work Circle’ dominated by his boss & impacted by his peers and the ‘Personal Circle’ dominated again by his boss a.k.a. Authoritarian figure & impacted by his friends and families.
Expectations only go up in life, if things are running fine and there are no disasters, and the standard hierarchy of needs is fairly straightforward – food, shelter, warmth, sex, prestige and self-realization. Now get me that scientist who suggested that one can even possibly try to lower the expectations in order to feel happy.
But the scientist is right in one sense when he indirectly states that in the face on competing and conflicting demands on a person by everyone around him, he can aim for happiness by ensuring ‘expectation management’. So you need to choose to range yourself between the two extremes in life – being a despot or a doormat, saying yes to everyone/everything to running away from all commitments, fight or flight in face of a conflict and having the common sense to choose the appropriate response.
Working Life strategies – This is the easy one and more often than not the piece is set right for you by your boss. If he is a success he knows exactly the pitch level to which he should strum you up so that you sound as smooth as a Violin. Corrective pressures do come now and then, but hopefully you are tweaked around as gently as possible. Ensure to remain in the right zone between boredom and breakdown – and remember being pushed out of your ‘comfort zone’ is a perpetual process that helps you maintain the balance.
The strategy also need to be rooted in your life cycle. The young ones can afford to take more risks in life so they need not curb their enthusiasm and can go out guns blazing to achieve success. They better remember that there is no free lunch and that the world does not owe them a job. They need to conquer all that they can see.
The aged war-horses will do better for themselves if they can understand their position in the bigger picture of things. They need to reconcile and reset their priorities as increasingly the family demands keep rising. One can’t find better words than that of A G Gardiner to describe this,“For Nature is a cunning nurse. She gives us lollipops all the way, and when the lollipop of hope and the lollipop of achievement are done, she gently inserts in our toothless gums the lollipop of remembrance. And with that pleasant vanity we are soothed to sleep.”
Personal Life strategies – Not as easy to generalize, but overall the relationships will find their equilibrium and the trajectory is bound to spiral upward if things are going fine for you.
I only want to make one final point on your ‘role’ – don’t be a furniture item, even a priceless one, for you to be moved around by people. Take an active part in deciding what you want else if will be question of going nowhere as any road will take you there.
Beyond this nothing is forever and good n bad times will swing your way. To quote Baroness P D James who regards happiness to be gift rather than a right, ‘Perhaps today we all take happiness as our right and unhappiness is seen as shameful and insupportable. Or is it that some people have an imperfect appreciation of linear time? For them the present moment is immeasurable, fixed in an eternal agony. There can be no hope that things will be better tomorrow because the idea of tomorrow has no reality.’
So finally have a hobby or passion that gratifies you – one you can keep doing gratis and never realize the time or effort you expend on it.
Finally I have not even got around to talk about the inexplicable – life if often not fair and things happen to impact our lives on which we have no control. It could seem to be destiny or karma or accident to your mind based on your religious moorings.
And in the face of all this, it is sheer lunacy to find people not appreciating the happiness that is present in their lives right now. So wake up to see the beautiful day and be glad of the circus of life that surrounds you. And while you are at it just take enough care to be not run over by the Bus while crossing the street.