For years as I immersed myself in learning the science of happiness, fleeting moments of joy temporarily masked the overwhelming lows that seemed to be dominating everyday life.
Since diving head-first into everything ‘happiness’, I’ve had countless times when I’ve felt on top of the world. I’ve had many moments that have completely changed the way I look at life, for the better. It’s been life-changing. That’s why I committed my life to studying the science of happiness – to share everything I knew in the hope that it could help make others’ lives better one day, too.
Curiously though, as my knowledge reached new heights, a dark cloud seemed to settle overhead. I experienced the highest highs, but at the same time, they simply masked the weight of the world that seemed to press down on me harder than ever.
At times it was as if, the more I learned about happiness, the unhappier I became. It made no sense!
Maybe it was because my gut issues had increased over time, and my gut is linked directly to my mental state. The twenties can also be a bit of a rollercoaster, no matter who you are. So, it must be that, right? But I just realized – it’s not. That may be a contributing factor to some of my off-days, but that’s life, and it isn’t the reason behind why I’ve been feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders.
Today, I listened to the School of Greatness Podcast, where Lewis Howes interviewed Mo Gawdat – Chief Business Owner at Google’s [X] and all-around fascinating human being. They talked about ‘the happiness equation’ and Mo’s personal journey to happiness. The whole interview had me hooked from the get-go.
The happiness equation changed everything for me.
Happiness is equal to or greater than the events of your life, minus the expectation of how life should be.
Simply put, your expectations decide whether or not life is ‘going your way’. High expectations + not reaching those expectations = failure, which means things are perceived to be working against you. Low expectations + consistently reaching those expectations = success, which means things are perceived to be working for you. If you believe life is going your way, you’ll be happy.
So, if we just live life with low expectations, everything will be great, right? Theoretically, yes, but that ain’t livin’! Mo himself is a high achiever, so there must be plenty of room for achievement in this formula. More on that later.
Have you ever heard the saying, ‘knowledge is power’? Well, in my case, it felt like the total opposite. The more I learned about the science of happiness, the more it seemed to cripple me. And, as I’m finally realising, as my knowledge grew, so did my expectations of myself.
That’s when everything started to make sense. If my happiness depended on whether or not life was going my way (i.e. if I was meeting my expectations on a consistent basis), well, my expectations of myself were always out of reach.
As my expectations increased, my self-worth declined. I stopped allowing myself time for self-care. My anxiety grew. An overwhelming sense of failure loomed over me. Consistently. No matter how hard I worked, it was never enough. I was not enough.
I knew what I needed to do to be the picture of health, so why wasn’t I healthy?
I knew what I needed to do to be outrageously productive, so why wasn’t I getting things done?
I knew what I needed to do to grow my business and make it my sole form of income, so why did I still have 2 other jobs?
I knew what I needed to do to create happiness in my life every day, so why was I so unhappy?
I now know why. Because all of my knowledge had created an image of the ideal human I wanted to be; who I felt I needed to be if I wanted to be taken seriously. This ideal human border-lined perfection, which is the most unrealistic expectation of all. The craziest thing? I didn’t even realise it. I know full-well that these thought-patterns are incredibly detrimental to my wellbeing, but for some reason, I was blinded by the constant need to be better. Much better. Now.
“Expectation is the root of all heartache.” – William Shakespere. Yep, I knew that.
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life.” – Anne Lamott. Yep, I knew that.
“Patience is a key element of success.” – Bill Gates. Yep, I knew that, too.
It goes to show, we can be taught anything, but we don’t always learn it. There’s a difference. Sometimes, it takes big mistakes or challenges in order to truly learn a life lesson. I needed to truly learn this one.
So there it is. Lesson learnt. Now, to implement change into my life.
How can we still achieve whilst using this equation?
1. Have realistic expectations High expectations lead to a lack of achievement, which leads to perceived failure. High expectations are not the way to go. Low expectations aren’t necessarily the way to go, either. What we need are realistic expectations. Expectations that you may need to stretch to, to achieve them, but are still achievable. They’re just out of reach, and you’ll need to take deliberate action to get there, but you can get there. 2. Create realistic goals
Reshape your realistic expectations into the form of a goal. As always, your goals should be S.M.A.R.T.
S.M.A.R.T goals are realistic, achievable goals.
3. Reshape the way we look at goals
We’ve always been taught to have large goals that are easily broken down into small, achievable goals. You can absolutely do that, but, I want to do things a little differently. When we have such specific large goals, we often get far too caught up in them and forget the little wins along the way. An option is to change the way we word our large goals. Instead of: Lose 10 kilos in 6 months.
Use: In perfect time, become the healthiest version of myself.
Instead of: Make $100,000 dollars profit within the first two years of business.
Try: In perfect time, grow my business to make consistent gains.
Again, you can absolutely have very specific large goals, but I prefer to leave my goals open to interpretation, and open to a different means of getting what I want.
Maybe, losing that 10kg won’t make a person as happy as they thought it would, but becoming the healthiest version of themselves will. Taking away time-frames and specifics also allows us to over the large goals, and put more focus into the smaller, achievable, realistic goals. I believe that’s what we should be doing.
Focus on the small goals – the journey – that’ll one day take you somewhere incredible, all while enjoying every tiny win along the way.
To read more about smaller goals, check out recent guest-blog by Andrew Baggio: Are Your Dreams Setting You Up For Failure?
This guy gets it! And he’s the most happy, content, grateful, successful person I’ve ever met.
Now, everything changes. That dark cloud that has been hovering above me – it’s shifting. The weight of the world – it’s getting lighter. My expectations have become realistic, and I already have so much more love and appreciation for me.
Everything I’ve ever written about, posted about, or discussed in my videos – I back it 100%. What I learn and share with others is scientifically backed, and I am eternally grateful to have learnt everything that I have to this point. I am eternally grateful that I know my calling in life is to teach. I am eternally grateful that I can combine the two and bring something positive to the world.
I will never stop working on myself, I will never stop learning everything there is to learn about the science of happiness, and I will never stop sharing it with whoever will listen!
If I can reach one expectation in life – to help just one person to learn something about themselves or make just one positive, lasting change in their lives – I have succeeded. Life is going my way. That’s my happiness.
Love & Happiness
P.S Do you know someone who could really benefit from reading this? To give them the motivation and push they need to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of the young people around them? Share this post with them. Even if they don't embrace it straight away, you've done your part. Thank you.
P.P.S Check out some more content to really take your life and your family members lives to the next level!
YouTube Weekly Tutorials: Click here
Selfless? Or Lacking Self-Worth? (Blog): Click here
Are Your Dreams Setting You Up For Failure? By Andrew Baggio (Blog): Click here
5 Steps To Fantastic Leadership (Blog): Click here
1 Part Work + 1 Part Life = Recipe For Disaster (Blog): Click here
The next step:
Commit to being the change, and get started on my IHH 10 Days of Gratitude Challenge. Sign up now to receive your FREE copy. I made it especially for you :) (and not once did I let Adobe InDesign beat me! Ok, maybe once…)
From here, get involved in my whole-family approach and register your interest for the IHH Weekly Workshops ONLINE (for adults) and the in-person, Interactive IHH Weekly Workshops (for kids). Both programs launching early 2017! Note: Registering your interest does NOT lock you in to anything – it simply lets me know that people want to make a change, and gives me an idea of when and how I need to make it happen.
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