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Jeff Wolf

Writer / Adventurer

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Could the answer to our happiness be found in NO expectations?

Barry suggests, tongue-in-cheek, that the answer to happiness is low expectations. Could the answer be that happiness is found in NO expectations? While low expectations would mean you’re seldom disappointed, it also speaks to a person’s self-worth; I do not deserve more or better. Having no expectations doesn’t diminish my sense of worth and it does more than reduce disappointment; it allows joy and contentment in all circumstances.

If I work a long day and expect dinner on the table when I get home, I am disappointed (and possibly angry) when the expectation is not met. If dinner is on the table, it is merely what I expected. I may exchange pleasantries and say “Thank You”. But the experience is completely different if I had no expectation and found that someone had thought of me and taken the time to prepare a meal for me. My gratitude is real. My enjoyment is real. The experience of the meal is increased.

When I expect nothing, I am more than just “not disappointed” when I receive. I am pleased and thankful, even for the smallest things.

Topics: future happiness
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    Aug 23 2011: Do you expect to expect nothing?
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      Aug 23 2011: I would like expectancy to replace expectation. Expectation requires something to satisfy it, making it wholly dependent on circumstance. Expectancy is always satisfied; a state of living that does not require the fulfillment of desire to experience joy, satisfaction, peace, and contentment.
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        Aug 23 2011: ex·pect·an·cy/ikˈspektənsē/
        Noun: The state of thinking or hoping that something, esp. something pleasant, will happen or be the case.

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        I'm not quite sure why people think the absence of something will result in happiness.

        The absence of darkness is not light. It is void.

        The absence of war is not peace. Peace is peace.

        The absence of thirst will not satisfy hunger (or thirst for that matter.)

        The absence of expectancy will not result in happiness.

        Actually, nothing "results" in happiness; happiness is not a consequence - but that's another conversation.
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          Aug 23 2011: I think I’m using the same definition of expectancy, but focusing on a specific point when I contrast expectation and expectancy. I definitely want to live in a “state of thinking that something pleasant will happen”. That is significantly different to me than having an expectation that something specific will happen, or should happen.

          Maybe my point is a corollary to your statement that people think the absence of something will result in happiness: people also think the presence of something will result in happiness (expectation). I think happiness is not dependent on circumstance (I completely agree that nothing “results” in happiness).
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        Aug 23 2011: QUOTE: "I completely agree that nothing “results” in happiness"

        If you agree nothing results in happiness, then you have answered your own question: Having no expectation will not result in happiness.

        Having no expectation (if it were possible) would result in having no expectation.
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          Aug 24 2011: “Could the answer be that happiness is found in NO expectations?” (My original question.) Also (from the original), “Having no expectations … allows joy and contentment in all circumstances”

          My question and statement mention finding and allowing, not resulting. To me, finding means something already exists. If happiness is not being experienced, it can be found or discovered (I can become aware of it). Not having an expectation would simply allow me to see, for example, an act of love in providing me dinner (as in my original example). I am aware of my happiness when I experience acts of love.

          I do believe that having no expectations is possible. However, I currently have no intention of devoting my life to the singular focus of getting there.
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        Aug 24 2011: My expectation is that many of my expectations will not necessarily be fulfilled. Or, in even simpler terms: I do not expect my expectations to be fulfilled. And I'm okay with that.

        I agree that expectations (unmet) are a source of disappointment.

        The disappointment comes, in part, from the expectation itself, and, in part, from the expectation that expectations should be fulfilled.

        Expectations have little to nothing to do with happiness.
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          Aug 24 2011: I see what you're saying now (I think). I look at "I do not expect my expectations to be fulfilled" as 'desire' or 'want' and expectations as being much closer to the fulfillment of desire.

          Given that though, I see desire (not the fulfillment) as having much to do with happiness.
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        Aug 24 2011: QUOTE: "“Could the answer be that happiness is found in NO expectations?” (My original question.) Also (from the original), “Having no expectations … allows joy and contentment in all circumstances”

        Based on your responses, I am guessing you already have an answer you find satisfying.

        Personally, I see no connection between expectation and happiness (other than we have to be alive to experience both.) ...

        Joy and contentment are not dependent on expectation. They, like happiness, are not consequences. They are not the outcome of a "formula" - one part enlightenment, minus two parts expectation = happiness (joy or contentment.) Or: One spouse + one (good) career + 2.4 kids + 250 friends + faith = happiness (joy or contentment.)

        If you are looking for water, you will find it in a well. It does not matter whether you expect to find it or whether you expect not to find it.

        Water only has meaning if you are thirsty.

        Happiness, joy, and contentment are like water (they are nouns not adjectives.)

        We will find them where they are regardless of our expectation. (Our expectation - and our thirst - might affect whether we look or not ... but, again, that is another conversation.)

        We sometimes (understandably) mistake our emotional state for happiness (or the lack thereof.)

        It seems to me, we often see ourselves as "the centre of the universe:" Our personal experiences, we assume, define happiness, love, reality, whatever.
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          Aug 24 2011: If being satisfied with my answer means I think it is the end-all and be-all, that I am unwilling to alter my perceptions, or that I think it is the final truth, then no, I’m not satisfied. If it means that it is a workable answer for me that seems logically sound and supported by anecdotal experience, then yes, I’m satisfied with my answer.

          Barry’s talk postulates that happiness is reduced by ever-increasing options (that he associates with freedom) because we tend to expect that there would have been a better outcome from the choice(s) we didn’t make. I agree with you that expectations (or the lack of them), do not cause happiness, but I still fail to see how they are not correlated. If one thing reduces or increases my experience of something else, then there is a relationship, even if it’s not causal. Can you explain your point more?

          In your example of water, you would only be looking for it in wells if you expected it to be there. But if you only look in wells, you may miss the stream flowing by. You may also miss (and be annoyed at) the rain getting in your eyes while you desperately search for water where you expect it to be.

          I guess I see a close relationship between expectation and happiness even in your comparison to water. If expectation affects whether we look for happiness or not, then I see a relationship.

          If you have the opportunity to continue, please help me understand.

          Thanks Thomas!
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        Aug 25 2011: QUOTE: "If one thing reduces or increases my experience of something else, then there is a relationship, even if it’s not causal. Can you explain your point more?"

        Your experience of a thing and the thing are not the same ... thing.

        Imagine a hot stove. Now imagine putting your hand on the hot stove.

        Will your expectation have an impact on the outcome?

        Will your expectation have an impact on the experience?

        We could argue that expectation could have an impact on both the outcome and on the experience.

        Would the impact be "significant?"

        I don't think so.

        Your hand will hurt, and you will need treatment.

        Is the burn an "imagined" experience; or is it "real?"

        Is happiness an "imagined" experience; or is it "real?"

        If happiness is an imagined experience, then expectation would have a huge impact.

        If happiness is a real experience, then expectation would have about the same impact on it as it has on your hand.

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