Paradox Of Happiness Essay

According the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of Happiness is being pleased, being satisfied, and being lucky (Oxford Dictionary). However, the definition of being happy is different for everyone. There are many elements to one person’s happiness, whether that be fame or fortune, or something that most take advantage of such as a roof over their head, or dinner on the table every night. Happiness is an emotion that can be uncontrolled, and is forever changing. Expectations are a major reason why a person’s happiness is manipulated every second of everyday.

According to a health website “Positive Med,” there are six major emotions which include anger, fear, surprise, disgust, happiness, and sadness. According to this, happiness only occurs one sixth of the time. In order for a person’s happiness to be increased, expectations need to be lowered (How Many Emotions are there? 2015). Expectations are what make or break a person’s happiness. Robb Rutledge, an author and neuroscientist, argues that, “Happiness depends not on how well things are going but whether things are going better or worse than expected” (Sherman 2014).

Some people grow up in a world filled with expectations, whether the expectations are from an outside source, or from the person themselves, expectations can either be helpful, or something that kills somebody’s happiness. Expectations are essentially planned disappointment. Rutledge believes that people should not start something with a preconceived notion on how it should end. Rutledge also believes that people should dive into an activity, or decision, without worrying about the end result. Being in the present is more important than being concerned about the future (Engelking 2015).

In today’s time, people are living with endless dreams and endless possibilities. When people wake up in the morning, they have no idea how many decisions they will have to make that day. Barry Schwartz, PhD, author of “The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less,” argues that the higher amount of options that a person has, the higher their expectations will be. Schwartz concludes that people only need a few necessary things in their life to be truly happy, and everything else is unnecessary and a burden.

Three main necessities that Schwartz swears buy include having a solid group of friends, having a balance of down time and social time, and loving yourself (Buchan 2005). When people believe that they need more than the simple, critical things in life, it takes a toll on them emotionally and mentally. According to the article “7 Secrets to Happiness,” high expectations cause a person to become overwhelmed and slowly begin to not appreciate themselves, as well as what they are fortunately able to have in life (Buchan 2005). A common saying is that there is a equation to happiness.

Radio host, Tom Magliozzi, took Alfred Korzybski’s, a Polish- American general scholar’s extensive equation for happiness and simplified it into three main variables which include happiness, reality, and expectations. Reality is used to describe what is actually possible to accomplish in a person’s lifetime. Expectations are the main cause as to why a person’s happiness decreases. Once person’s expectations are subtracted from their reality, their happiness is decided. A person has a set “number” for their reality, and the higher and higher their expectations reach, the more that subtracts from their reality (Martinez 2015).

High expectations lead to disappointment. When a person sets their expectations at a low standard, there is more room for greatness to come out of it. Jeremy E. Sherman, who has a Ph. D. in evolutionary and decision theory, argues that higher expectations lead to improvement, where lower expectations lead to satisfaction. A person who sets low expectations will most likely exceed them which creates happiness for themselves, whereas high expectations are more likely not to be accomplished which leads to a person becoming unhappy (Sherman 2015).

University College of London recently conducted a study to prove that the secret to happiness is low expectations. 26 subjects were asked to complete a decision making task, each decision that was made lead to a gain or loss of money. A functional MRI was used to measure the subject’s neural activity as well as an oral response while participating in the activity. Subjects were asked repeatedly during the activity whether or not they were happy. By using the data reported by the subjects and the MRI scientists concluded that the participant’s happiness was due to rewards and expectations.

The study then went on to test 18,420 subjects in a game entitled “What Makes Me Happy,” an app on smartphones created by UCL. Even though during the game, participants did not win real money, the loss or gain of points still caused them to increase or decrease their happiness levels. Scientists then concluded that when a person receives a reward, a person’s happiness level increases dramatically. On the other side, however when one has high expectations that cannot be met, their happiness level decreases greatly (UCL 2015).

Expectations could be goals in a person’s life, or it could be plans to meet up with a friend to have lunch on Tuesday. Expectations are needed in life in order for people to be held accountable for their actions as well as to keep a person’s spirits up. In an interview with Dr. Robb Rutledge on The Today Show, Rutledge claims that expectations are needed to make sure that both parties show up to a planned lunch, but expecting a five star meal in a two star restaurant, will only lead to unhappiness and disappointment.

Rutledge agrees that goals and expectations are acceptable to have if they are set in a healthy way. Having expectations that are unreasonable and irrational cause people to become discouraged, which lead to unhappiness (Happiness Equation Solved 2014). Expectations cause a person’s happiness levels to decrease. If a person has high expectations that are not reached, they will lose confidence in themselves, as well as become sad or depressed that they did not exceed their expectations.

Low expectations lead to a healthier and more fulfilled lifestyle. People that tend to set low expectations, and exceed them will live a life filled with goals that they have met, and dreams that they have achieved. On the other hand, people who have set goals that are unreachable, or even delusional, will wake up every day feeling like a failure and will never experience any happiness in their life. Happiness is one of the most important emotions in a person’s life, and people need this emotion in order to live a healthy and fulfilled life.