Expectations as the Foundation for Our Happiness

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This happens when what we imagine surpasses the reality of our experiences. It's like when we see a movie or place that is not as great as we had imagined. Ware also claims that our decision-making process undermines our happiness. We make decisions based on choosing what we believe is a better option. We can choose Paris over Jakarta, buy a newer model of car or choose one person over another, thinking it will make us happier...  however this is not always the case.

Nat adds that technology makes this even worse. We think one photo is better than another because it has 200 'likes' instead of only 3. Likewise, the use of photo shop produces sensational images, a romanticized sense of travel. Marketing is also guilty by promoting expectations about products by creating an idealized image of what it is. Or beauty standards that are so high it generates lower self-esteem and depression (and of course, higher sales).

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Those around us Humans function in contrasts. I will know that my new car is better because I compare it to the old one. We compare our reality based on our experience with that of others. We judge what we have depending on the people around us. If I earn 50,000 a year and my neighbors are poor, I will feel richer. If I earn the same money, but my neighbors earn 5 times more, I will feel poorer. This is also because our social position matters. Meik Wiking gives an example in his talk Ted 'The dark side of the happiness'. In countries with lower unemployment rate, being unemployed can be more devastating because much more pressure is placed on us, we question ourselves more, not being able to blame the economy. Meik also talks about social networking being another one of our worst enemies. Each person constantly displays their best news of the day, showing 'perfect lives' and creating unattainable standards, distorting our perception of reality. The researcher tells us about an investigation taking two groups, one of them would stop using social networks for a week and the other would continue to use it normally.

The result? The group that left it for a week reported significantly greater satisfaction with life compared to the group that continued using social networks. This led to the conclusion that being exposed to the happiness of other people can have negative effects on our own happiness. Without getting too far off subject, Meik ended the issue commenting that this generated a paradox in happiness, making the countries with greater happiness also have more suicides. Returning to Nat, the same thing happens with physical appearance. If we surround ourselves with people who look less attractive they will make us feel more beautiful and by contrast, others will perceive us as more attractive. On the contrary, surrounding ourselves with more attractive people will make us look and feel less attractive. 

Nat, in his great wisdom, recommends going out dancing with friends less attractive than ourselves. A big issue is that we tend to prioritize those who have more, which makes us feel that we have less than we actually do, adds Nat. The problem is that as we move forward, we compare ourselves with those who are still higher up, becoming a vicious circle.

We feel happier when we perceive that we are progressing from the past. If two different people have same income, but one has increased and the other decreased compared with a year ago, the former will feel happier. Nat also notes that many times we can harm the happiness of our children. If we give them everything from the beginning it can be counterproductive for them when they want to get ahead. It´s the same if we tell them that they are special or that they can achieve everything that they want as an incentive. You cannot be a ballet dancer if you are in a wheel chair. It only creates more disappointment as they grow up and get an ordinary job or fail in many of their goals, like starting their first business, as most of them do.

Our happiness is the result of these battles with our expectations of the imagination, those around us and our past experiences. If you think about it, many of our best experiences are those in which we expected nothing. As a solution Nat suggests that to overcome these barriers the first step is to take happiness seriously as well as our expectations. As for the expectations of the imagination it is important to set realistic goals. It's okay to think big, but it's always good to be prepared for the worst. As for the expectations surrounding.

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