Happiness shouldnt depend on successWhen people set themselves life goals – whether it’s planning out their next ten years or putting a new restaurant on their bucket list – they’re setting up expectations of the world.

People expect a lot from life. They expect an education, a job, the opportunity to sustain themselves, the freedom to think and to create and to choose.

As a species, mankind invented government to ensure that these expectations are upheld in the lives of the many. Our lawmakers and politicians are tasked with the job of ensuring that those in a position to provide income and employment and as much satisfaction in a productive lifestyle do so as efficiently and fairly as possible. They are supposed to make sure that our education, our healthcare, our shelter, our income, our opportunities are safe. Whether or not they succeed in that job from election to election, that is ultimately their function. To make as close as possible to certain that the world lives up to our expectations, as long as they pertain to things we can control.

But some things, people expect without knowing if it’s feasible.

We often expect, for instance, to be happy.

We see happiness as a goal, as if it is something we can measure, and mark a point at which, yes, we have reached it. We assume that, one day, we’ll have achieved all the things we have set out to achieve, and from that point on will be permanently happy.

But the world doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t do us favours. It doesn’t stop doing terrible things just because we hit our targets this season. It acts completely at random and often gets in the way of our plans.

Disasters happen. Tragedies happen. Minor annoyances happen. They all mess with our efforts and make us miserable with no sensible explanation.

And sometimes we feel grumpy for no good reason. Nothing’s actually bothering us, we just feel like moaning.

And that’s fine.

But we’ve convinced ourselves it’s really, really not. That we’ve failed at doing joy right if, for a little while, we feel unhappy.

Expecting to be happy all time is a huge mistake. In the long run, your disappointed expectations will make you more miserable.

You are a human being. Remember that you are a strange, complicated, intelligent little life form with a complex brain and unwieldy, unreliable emotions that, without warning or reason, can turn against what we think we want. Everything can be going perfectly right and we might still be miserable because our confused, difficult systems aren’t sure how to deal with life right now.

People too often equate happiness with success. And instead of that meaning that when you are successful, you get happy, they’ve started to assume that when you are unhappy you are unsuccessful. And it upsets them all the more.

Being unhappy doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. It just means that you’re reacting emotionally to a world that, sometimes, is a bit crap.

Happiness is something that happens, sometimes when you don’t expect it. It’s something that sometimes doesn’t happen when you most expect it to. It’s not something you can plan, or design, or buy, or control. It is unpredictable. It is flawed. It is uniquely human. We can never expect it to bow to our wishes.

Happiness is something you have to appreciate where you find it, and to accept when it is absent. Don’t chase after it too hard. It is something that will come to you when you are looking for something else. Accept that sometimes it just won’t come at all.

But be ready always to welcome it and cherish it when it does.

Kirstie Summers,

Daily Zen. 

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