I think it is safe to say that we have all felt like we have gotten the short end of the stick at least once if not several times in our lives. You might have lost your job, lost a lot of money or for whatever reason, you might just be having a bad day. Chances are, life probably has a few more of its proverbial curve balls in store for you.
However, what if you minimized your expectations a little so you could be more content or a least be able to cope better with having received the dreaded short end of the stick? I’m not saying that you should lower your expectations to the point that you should be happy with getting divorced or losing your job, but lowering the bar a little might help you cope better with future let downs.
For example, there are people who hope to win the lottery and retire. If you minimized your expectations by thinking in a more realistic manner and told yourself “I probably won’t win the lottery but I would be very happy if my retirement fund grew 6% this year.”, you reduce the gap between your expectations and the most probable event that will occur. Consequently, you also cut your chances of being let down.
The Stoics used to take lowering their expectations to the extreme by imagining themselves in worst case scenarios. They would then try to mentally and emotionally cope with those fictional situations. This technique might not be for everyone since it is a little pessimistic or gloomy in nature but it did help them become “immune to misfortune”.
I don’t want you to always be bracing yourself for the worst but constantly hoping for miracles isn’t a good strategy either. By reducing your expectations you can also start being happier with what your currently have instead of always wishing for more stuff.
Now the first step to minimizing your expectations is catching yourself dreaming, hoping and expecting big things. Being more mindful of your thoughts will help you with that.
Once you’ve caught yourself, slow yourself down and ground yourself. A good way of grounding yourself is getting a bit of work done. Do something as soon as you can, even if it is a simple task like clearing your desk. This will get you out of your reveries and back on planet earth.
Obviously, reducing your expectations isn’t something that just happens. It might take time to change your mindset. You will have to make an effort to notice when your expectations are a little unreasonable or excessive but that’s normal.
This idea of lowering the bar might not be a revolutionary one, but I think it can be a useful tip that can help you in your journey toward a simpler life.
Some might argue that this approach is too cynical; others might say it’s just being rational. What do you think? Is minimizing your expectations a bad idea or can it help you be happier?