While the world is constantly urging us to achieve bigger things, do more, and hustle harder, it can feel as if we are literally chasing after tomorrow. And worse, we can’t seem to stay calm and content with who we are, how we feel, and what we do — today.
To answer the question of “how can I be happy?” is frightening, and incredibly difficult.
We often think that once we have more of something — money, reputation, time — we will be happy. Therefore, in order to achieve bigger and better things, we think and work harder.
Before we know it, we fall into a paradox of thinking that just having “more” will bring us happiness.
There are countless theories and formulas about happiness. And believe me, it gets super confusing at some point, especially when you’re desperately seeking happiness right now.
However, I believe the most accurate formula to explain why we are happy and why we are not is simply this:
Happiness = Reality > Expectation
When your reality is better than your expectation, you’re happy. When your reality is worse than your expectation, you’re sad.
Knowing this, it becomes apparent exactly why most of us aren’t happy with what we do.
We want more from ourselves. We want to do more and we want to be more. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with wanting this. But where are these expectations usually coming from?
We compare ourselves to others — seeking benchmarks and standards by which to evaluate ourselves.
But when we do that, we measure ourselves based on the other’s standards, or the collective standard of the people around us. We assume others are always smarter, stronger, better simply because they are smarter, stronger, and better NOW — and discount the work they put in to get there.
There is a second type of expectation — we expect things to happen that are outside of our control.
For example; we expect our spouse to treat us better. We expect people to listen to what we have to say. We expect things will always to work out the way we want them to.
We hope change happens by itself.
The fact that there exists the perfect timing, perfect environment, and perfect state to achieve great work is largely a myth. Many believe that if things are perfect, our life will be better.
Reality: Things are never perfect.
It turns out, the level of accomplishment and fulfillment we’re experiencing every day, is affected by the way we define winning and losing.
If we are expecting a particular outcome to determine that we have done a good job, we most likely end up with tons of very bad work and low self-esteem.
Or worse, we do nothing at all because the expectation is so high that it triggers our lizard brain and freezes us.
To win every day, lower your expectations and focus on the process.
When I launched my Focus Workshop, how many students did I expect? Two. Yes, two students are what I needed to consider the idea a success. It was not about how many students I got It was about me doing it, and if it sucked, I could always make it better next time.
For Tim Ferriss, writing two scrappy pages in the morning was considered a win for the day. It’s never about writing the best articles. It’s about writing itself.
Lowering your expectations makes winning easier. It makes you less anxious so you can start doing your work.
It also pulls you back from silly comparisons and unrealistic expectations. It’s no longer what others are doing; it’s about what you are doing. It’s no longer about what happens to you; it’s about how you react to your circumstances.
Eventually, you’re winning every single day. And the sense of accomplishment, compounded daily, creates an enormous momentum to push you forward.