Issue #42 — 4.1 minute read
👋 Hey phi-lazy-phers
I create most of my misery.
I play out situations in my head, thinking about how they should happen. Naturally, when they don’t happen that way, I’m disappointed and upset. Despite learning this lesson many times, I continue expecting.
It’s as Mu Soeng said, “When our expectation of how things should be conflicts with how things are, there is dukkha, suffering.”
This scene from (500) Days of Summer does a beautiful job illustrating the Expectations vs. Reality difference:
We’ve all experienced situations like this. Romantic relationships, friendships, jobs, family members, highly-anticipated movies, rooting for sports teams (I’ve subjected myself to agony as a Cleveland Browns fan 😞), etc.
Of course, there’s a difference between expectation and hope. There is also a difference between expecting a lot of ourselves and expecting a lot from someone or something. Before diving into that, let’s go down the usual philosophical path to see what some of history’s wisest thinkers have said about this topic:
Expectation is the grandfather of disappointment. The world can never control a man who wants nothing.
Good is not good when better is expected.
There were two ways to be happy: improve your reality, or lower your expectations.
The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.
I find my life is a lot easier the lower I keep my expectations.
When we put down ideas of what life should be like, we are free to wholeheartedly say yes to our life as it is.
Anthony de Mello
Where there is love there are no demands, no expectations, no dependency. I do not demand that you make me happy; my happiness does not lie in you. If you were to leave me, I will not feel sorry for myself; I enjoy your company immensely, but I do not cling.
Expect much from yourself and little from others and you will avoid incurring resentments.
Expectations almost always carry the concept of 'should' in our minds, which brings with it furious thoughts of unfairness and indignation.
As Confucius alluded to, I can expect certain things from myself, things that are in my control. However, as the Stoics point out, there are many situations I can’t control. As a general rule of thumb, it’s best to lower our expectations for the world around us. It’s unhealthy for me to create expectations for how I think a partner, sports team, or the government should act at any given moment as it will often lead to disappointment.
The majority of arguments between people stem from unmet, uncommunicated, and unfair expectations.
On a lighter note, allow Bo Burnham to explain why we should all lower our expectations.
✌️ Until next week, happy philosophizing.
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