Is lowering our expectations the answer?

The Daily Telegraph reported a year ago* that keeping expectations low may be the key to happiness – according to researchers at University College London.

“It is often said that you will be happier if your expectations are lower,” said lead author, Dr Robb Rutledge. “We find that there is some truth to this: lower expectations make it more likely that an outcome will exceed those expectations and have a positive impact on happiness.”

But the team also found that positive expectations can influence happiness before the outcome.

“If you have plans to meet a friend at your favourite restaurant, those positive expectations may increase your happiness as soon as you make the plan,” said Dr Rutledge. But the team found that visiting a favourite restaurant could actually make people unhappy because their expectations are so high that it would not take much for them to be disappointed.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.”

They researched that! Nothing new here surely?

Are they saying you’re happier having your low expectations proven wrong or when you enjoy the anticipation of a looked-forward-to event? Surely all they ‘discovered’ is that both are true.

eeyoreThe problem with low expectations is that all sounds a bit like scarcity thinking to me. Remember Eeyore from the Winnie the Poo stories? His is not a joyful life! If your predilection is to ‘thinking the worst’ then you’re wasting valuable moments of your life sitting under a rain cloud when the odds are equally stacked that the outcome will be a good one.

In a 50-50 chance of good or bad outcome surely the enjoyment of the anticipation of something far outweighs any temporary disappointment that might occur?

AND ANYWAY…..remember Law of Attraction? What you pay attention to grows.

Think something will go wrong? It probably will!

Enjoy the anticipation of a great result? Bottom dollar you’ll get that too.

What do you choose?




“I wish I’d let myself be happier”

My lovely niece Anna has just sent me this great article which documents the top 5 regrets of the dying. Points 1 and 5, Anna said in her email, seem to sum up the spirit of this blog completely. I can’t help but agree!

(For the full article click here)

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.”

Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

“This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

“Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”


Let’s make it our mission to live with no regrets. Agreed?



A most happy loss

Yesterday I gave another Future Self Now workshop at Hawkwood College in Stroud. It was a great day – the participants were wonderful and really threw themselves into it. I got home and Guy had made toad-in-the-hole with roast potatoes, veggies and gravy. We then all watched ‘Big’ together on our big screen. That’s what I call a great day!

Bit knackered this morning after the push of getting ready for the workshop so it felt good to see other people experiencing a push – in a spectacular way. It was the fantastic Australian Open tennis match – Djokovic vs. Nadal. It went on for nearly 6 hours!  Those two played their guts out. Its been a long time since I’ve seen anything like it. It felt like we were specatators at a Roman gladitorial fight.

Here’s a clip of the moment when Djokovic won. Two days ago he fought an intense battle with Andy Murray which took another mammoth 5 hours. How he lasted today, I have no idea. You can see his guttural, primaeval response to his victory here – a reflection of what it took him to get to this place:

(apologies that the commentary is in another language, but you get the gist!)

This is the kind of happiness that comes from a hard battle fought and won – the experience of pushing oneself to the limit and coming out on top. Nadal played the same game, fought as hard and strong but won’t have been happy in the least. Not at all. This is the 7th time he’s lost a final against Djokovic. This is not a place, it seems, where “it’s all about the journey” – in this moment it’s all about the winning.

When happiness is this black and white – winning and losing – I wonder how you cope? For the answer I only need look as far as the transcipt of Nadal’s interview post todays’ match.

“I played more aggresive. I played with more winners than ever. My serve worked well. The mentality and the passion was there – better probably than any other time.

So that’s very positive aspects on the whole game that I am very happy. No? So, I just lost the final of a Grand Slam. I am not happy to lose the final, yes, but that’s one fo the loses that I am more happy about in my career.”

I love Nadal!

Here’s an extract from a lovely poem by one of Nadal’s compatriot’s – Antonio Machado. The Spanish, it seems, have this losing / happiness thing really sussed out.

Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.