We have been discussing expectations related to our happiness and success in our workshops for years. A recent book, Your Brain at Work, by David Rock (2009) puts some new light on the subject–There is a physiological reason we are disappointed when life does not meet our expectations. It has to do with dopamine. Alina Tugend explains this theory in an excellent article, What Did Your Expect? It Makes A Difference, on Jan 14, 2012 in the NY Times:
‘If we expect to get x and we get x, there is a slight rise in dopamine. If we expect to get x and we get 2x there is a greater rise. But if we expect to get x and get 0.9x, then we get a much bigger drop. Our brain doesn’t get slightly unhappy, it sends out a message of danger or threat.”
The conclusions from this research, as well as others, indicate that we must adapt to change and not to expect too much during this time of economic instability—especially when there are things out of our control.
In our book, Upside: How to Zig When Life Zags, we say the following:
“Feeling that you are entitled to a certain way of life, or expecting it to turn out a certain way, could be holding you back from success and happiness. Many of us were raised by parents who expected us to get an education, find a great job, buy a house and start a family. While that may have been possible for your parents, it set the bar for unrealistic expectations and feelings of entitlement for you today.”
If you can detect the source of your expectations, the upside is that it will be easier to move ahead on your journey to sustainable success. Holding on to what life should have will make deal with the not-known more difficult.