Why Having Low Expectations Is Killing Your Happiness

I don’t claim to be an expert on anything. I am not a ‘guru’ or a seer of any kind who can see the future, I am just a guy who likes to think he has a grasp on how human interactions work. That being said – I also like to think I can spot some crappy advice a mile away.


And, there is a lot of it out there.

A lot.

To be fair, I have also read some very empowering stuff from people far more well known than I am. But I think a lot of us tend to go to our friends for advice before we scour the interwebs to find a source or a coach who is best suited for us. Some of us even listen to friends who haven’t had much more success than we have in whatever arena of life we are speaking of. So, sometimes lackluster advice is expected.

Statements like “Oh, just get back out there and you’ll be fine.” “Just be yourself!” Or the ever-prolific “Stop having expectations of people and you won’t ever get hurt.

Well, that’s true, you might not get hurt. But that’s like saying “Don’t put that boat in the water and it will never sink!” Do you know what else will never happen? It will never be used for what it is actually made for. It will never be enjoyed. It will spend its entire existence avoiding pain rather than pursuing pleasure. And of that, not much comes.

And – why not have expectations of people? Shouldn’t you? We have expectations of things all the time – if I pick up a stapler I expect for it to staple things. If I press the ignition on my car I expect for it to start. If I turn on MTV at any given time of day I expect to see some trashy TV.


If I enter into a relationship, there damn well better be some expectations there. I expect for the woman in my life to appreciate the things I do for her. I expect her to enjoy my company as I enjoy hers. I expect her to show me her love in return. I expect us to make each other happy. Without these expectations, what’s the point?

Without these expectations you are walking into a dark room with your eyes closed and sitting in the first chair you bump into. “Well, this is good enough because I’m in a chair. I’m not going to feel around for the light switch.” Great, have fun being bored to tears and not experiencing anything positive with someone you love. But, hey, at least if you stay in the chair you won’t walk into a wall and hurt yourself.

But you also will never find the light. You will never be able to escape that darkness because you are so afraid of walking into something you just never get up. You’re safe, and safe is good enough.

Is it? Is safe good enough for you? Are you going to settle for that chair and stay there so you won’t hurt yourself or are you going to get off of your ass and find the light switch? You might bang your shin on the coffee table or stub your toe on the couch. You might even trip over something and fall down. But you will also get back up.

And eventually, you will find your way along the wall and you will find that light switch. And when you do, you will be able to look around the room at the mistakes you made on your journey there, and you will love every single one of them because they taught you lessons. They taught you to walk slower. To protect yourself better. To feel your way more carefully before taking each step.


The best part? All of the pain you felt while you were finding your way to the light switch will eventually fade away and be nothing but a memory. Seemingly a dream or another life once lived.

Every now and then you may think back and remember sitting in that chair in the darkness. You may think back to the days when you expected nothing of anyone and how it shielded you from pain – but also shielded you from happiness.

You may think back to those days, but not for long.

Because you will be standing in the light.


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9 thoughts on “Why Having Low Expectations Is Killing Your Happiness

  1. Another good one, James! I see a lot of Generation X and Generation Y couples experiencing each other as two drowning swimmers, clutched onto each other, but neither knows how to swim. Sinking down to the lowest common denominator together does not make for a fulfilling love life, ever. You are right, it starts with knowing your own wants, needs, requirements, and tolerances first, and then setting the expectations with no compromising on the key requirements. “Settling” seems to be passively rolling into the mold of mediocrity set by one’s friends. Raising the bar there, too, isn’t a bad idea.

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