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How rethinking happiness expectations can lead to hope and joy

Reading Time: 2 minutes

With our own expectations, we can set ourselves up for failure.

By thinking that the next new thing will finally help us reach that elusive feeling of happiness, we’re unknowingly hurting our chances for joy. Mis-wanting, adapting, and mis-predicting can leave us wanting, so we developed this guide to rethinking happiness and how it can lead to more joy.

If I could just get _________…

If I could just find _________…

If I could just make _______…

If I _______________________…

…THEN I would be happy.

Have you ever said this to yourself? In today’s world, it’s easy to have these thoughts – whether consciously or not. The ideas of making more money, buying a bigger home, having the perfect body, or achieving a top-level status encourage us to strive for more, but do these cravings create happiness when accomplished or do they just cultivate an increase in dissatisfaction and suffering?

Due to our minds mis-wanting, adapting, and mis-predicting, we can find ourselves in a cycle of searching for happiness where it really isn’t, says information from Yale University’s The Science of Well-Being course.


Commercials tell us we need something, websites convince us to buy something, social media shows us what everyone else is doing, and culture informs us of what is required – all for happiness.

But these institutions are often misleading, resulting in our brains mis-wanting what will truly make us happy. We can often be tricked into thinking that bigger is better, expensive is superior, and that more of a good thing leads to increased happiness.


It is normal for the mind to get used to things, which is great when we have a new schedule or a change in environment. However, it’s not helpful when it comes to the novelty of new things wearing off.

For example, buying a new car can be exciting and may bring about a moment of happiness, but over time the new car smell dissipates, the tires need to be replaced, and miles begin to add up to wear and tear. We aren’t stimulated anymore by the freshness it once brought to our lives, which means we’ve overestimated how happy the new car would make us.

Harvard psychologist, professor, and author of “Stumbling into Happiness,” Daniel Gilbert says, “Wonderful things are especially wonderful the first time they happen, but their wonderfulness wanes with repetition.”


Our minds tend to focus on one outcome while other possibilities of what may happen are left in the distant background, often leading to mis-predictions.

If we make a mistake at work, we may conclude that we’re going to get fired. If we don’t get an A in a class, we may think we’ll never get a good job. And if we don’t find true love by a certain age, we may believe we’ll never find it. This type of thinking is also often referred to as catastrophizing.

And, on the other hand, we may think that a promotion at work is the only way to have a successful career, that a 4.0 GPA will guarantee us a good job, and that marriage by a certain age is necessary for happiness.

If you find your mind mis-wanting, adapting, and/or mis-predicting, know that these are normal feelings and lines of thinking, especially in this day and age.

Take the next steps in happiness by learning about the two behavioral habits that can boost happiness levels.