EXPECT NO REWARD

Low expectations key to happiness

It is not giving up hope for good things but more like managing expectations.

In Summary
  • The only way things can go worse than expected, making you unhappy, is if you have high expectations.
  • Simply put, you can hope but don’t expect and you’ll be happier.
Happiness depends not on how well things are going but whether things are going better or worse than expected
Rob Rutledge, NeuroscientisT

The coronavirus pandemic has people grumbling, especially married men but not only the men, about being stuck in the house with a spouse and the children. Much like the virus, marital discord is in the air it would seem.

All over the world, it’s the same story, married couples forced to spend inordinate amounts of time confined under one roof is leading to strains and cracks emerging in relationships, and cooped up couples are clashing. People are not happy spending all their time with the person they’re married to and I don’t understand it.

You see I’m married, 20 years plus, we have children and I don’t mind spending inordinate amounts of time with my wife and kids. I’m not implying that I know the secret to a happy, stable marriage, because I do not have a clue. I’m saying we get along great as a family, most of the time, and generally we are as happy as a pair of courting larks and their chicks, largely because we both had zero expectations getting into this thing.

 

Getting married just sort of happened and so too did the kids. There was no grand plan or formula, no great expectations, so we winged it, and still do. I believe that’s the trick to a relatively blissful marriage – low expectations. This doesn’t just apply to marriage but to pretty much almost everything else.

I didn’t always know that the secret to being happy is to have low expectations, not consciously anyway, until my writing career came along. When I started writing many years ago I had dreams of making it big. I’m not talking local productions big, I had in mind Game of Thrones level writer-creator big.

This made me a high-strung, frustrated young man. I was not happy. Then, years later when I hadn’t quite made it as big as I’d hoped (I might still but I haven’t yet), I got over the expectation and I’ve been happier since. In fact, as a reminder to have very low expectations about making any real money from writing, I have this quote by a novelist on a Post-it on my writing desk. It goes:

‘I believe that you either love the work or the rewards. Life is a lot easier if you love the work.’ – Jane Smiley. Translation: Expect no rewards.

It sounds spurious that low expectations make one happier but studies and research have gone into this and here’s how one expert on the subject sums it up.

‘Happiness depends not on how well things are going but whether things are going better or worse than expected.’ – Rob Rutledge, Neuroscientist.

What this means is the only way things can go worse than expected, making you unhappy, is if you have high expectations. But expect no good things to come your way from circumstances, or from others, from marriage, or from a career, and you’ll forever be delightfully surprised if any good things happen at all.

 

Having low expectations is not giving up hope for good things. It is instead more like managing expectations. Simply put, you can hope but don’t expect and you’ll be happier.