Expectations are the root all unhappiness

Almost nobody gets to tick all the boxes on their expectations list

In Summary

• They have a knack for kicking you in the teeth

A girl experiencing blues
A girl experiencing blues

Expectations lead to disappointment, a frowny face, misery. When I say expectations, I don’t mean the kind where when you order a steak in a restaurant, your expectations are that you’ll get a steak.

No, I’m talking about life expectations, that programming that’s downloaded into us from an early age that leads us to have certain expectations in life.


We’re all familiar with the programme. Get good grades in high school, you go to university. Work hard in university, you graduate and get a well-paying job. Next, you find that perfect girl or guy and get married. Before you know it, you have two kids in private school, pedigree pets and a big house. Only thing that’s left now is to live happily ever after.

The thing about all of the above, though, is almost nobody gets to tick all the boxes on the expectations list. Life doesn’t quite play out like that, and we know it.

You’re probably not going to do well enough in high school to get to university. But even if you do, you probably won’t take a university course you like or you’re good at. But even if you do, you’re probably not going to find any job, let alone a well-paying one. But even if you do… you see where I’m going with this. Life’s journey is on a road with potholes of unmet expectations.

What’s funny about expectations is that even for the very few who accomplish everything, life doesn’t necessarily end up being happily ever after. Many will find themselves at their big house, lying in a pool chair by the pool, talking to the family Chihuahua like it was a therapist. They’re not happy and yet they’ve met all the expectations.

Two reasons account for this. One is once you get the thing that you were after, it stops being desirable and a novelty and, therefore, doesn’t make you any happier. Second reason is expectations don’t come from within, they are thrust upon us from outside by society. You went along with it because you thought that’s what everyone is supposed to do. You never asked yourself whether it’s what you wanted, and so now you sit by the pool at your house, talking to the dog.

In essence, both unmet and met expectations lead to the same place: unhappiness.

The problem with expectations, the flaw in the programme, is it comes from this belief that life is a mission to be accomplished, that there’s some finish line to get to where the stars are aligned and everything has fallen into place. There is no such place. And having expectations that there is and you can get there is guaranteed to leave you disappointed and unhappy.

So maybe the best thing is to not look at life through the lens of expectations but as an experiment. In most ways life is an experiment anyway, as nobody can claim to have figured it out.


Experiment away, try out new ideas, try everything you’ve always wanted to do, discover and learn. With an experiment, you can’t really fail because either way, you’re learning, acquiring a skill, growing.

Expectations, on the other hand, will kick you in the teeth.