Monday, April 20, 2009

What Do You Expect?

“Well, what do you expect?” Has anybody ever asked you that?

Sometimes, my greatest disappointments have come because I expected something that was simply not realistic.

You may know that Robert Lucas won the 1995 Nobel Memorial Prize in economics. His ex-wife received half of his $1 million award. Yes, his EX-wife. As it happened, when they were divorcing in 1988, she had her lawyer add one tiny clause to the property settlement: “Wife shall receive 50 percent of any Nobel prize.” And her clause had an expiration date: October 31, 1995. He won the prize on October 10.

One would think that her expectation of him winning a Nobel Prize might be irrational. How many people do that? It’s something like my winning the Iron Man Marathon by the year 3000. That just won’t happen.

But the difference is that I don’t train, and she seemed to be sure that it was only a matter of time before his outstanding work would be recognized in such a way. Within seven years, she thought. So it turned out her expectation was entirely rational. (Ironically, Lucas was honored for an economic theory he called “Rational Expectations.”)

I admittedly know nothing about Lucas’ Theory of Rational Expectations in economics. But I do know something about irrational expectations among people. And I know that irrational expectations can cause untold disappointment.

Like the expectation that someone else will make me happy. This is irrational. Nobody can make me happy. That is my job. If I expect others to make me happy or to keep me happy, I know I will be disappointed again and again.

Or the expectation that life should be, for the most part, relatively easy and problem free. This, too, is irrational. Bad things happen. Living can be difficult. If I expect things to be easy, if I expect NOT to have problems, if I expect to avoid pain and heartache, I know I will be in for serious disappointment. Problems are here to stay.

I don’t mean to paint a picture of life as bleak and miserable. It isn’t. In fact, I think it is amazingly wonderful. And all the more wonderful when I don’t expect too much out of it. I expect problems, but I also expect to find joy. I do not expect others to always please me, but I do expect to be responsible for my own well-being.

So…what did you expect? I think if you can answer that question well, you can expect to be much happier.

-- Steve Goodier


Anonymous said...

Believe and it will happen. As you think the world is, it is. So I guess I don't expect, I just believe, and say positive affirmations during the day.

Jyoti said...

Mr. Goodier...been enjoying your views on life and the world we live in for some years now. A lot of times, you words have made much sense and uplifted my spirits. This post too encourages me to look within for happiness rather than at the person facing me. I do not agree with curtailing one's expectations though. If we do not think big, we will not be able to influence the forces to favour us. Agree though that I shouldn't irrationally aspire for a Noble Prize :) Please keep writing as it steers many like me towards positive thoughts.

best, Jyoti (India)

Unknown said...

Dear Old Friend, your message just come in time to wake & lift me up from depression (as usual)...Thank you so much!!!