The winter holidays are in full swing. That means, for most of us, we have high expectations about how they will turn out. The traditions are many and the hype surrounding them is overwhelming. The advertising is out of this world. How can you top a brand new Cadillac festooned with a large red ribbon attached to the roof, parked on the driveway, waiting for the lucky recipient to discover her gift car?

If not luxury cars, we are shown idyllic settings, replete with appropriately deep snow. Nestled inside the architecturally lovely home, is a perfect, happy family. They beam with joy as they admire the brand new washer and dryer pair in the spotlessly clean laundry room. Or is it the array of tempting foods prepared in the family’s spanking-new, high tech, convection oven?

Honestly, how many people really believe they will receive or can afford to give such costly gifts for Christmas? Yet, many of us harbor vain hopes that we will be among the lucky few who can celebrate the holidays in such an extravagant manner. No matter how we try to convince ourselves that Christmas or any other holiday is just another day–truthfully, we know otherwise.

Ideally, the “true” meaning of the holidays is supposed to be about true generosity. Love offerings given selflessly, with no strings attached, pure love, and no expectations for reciprocity of similarly priced gifts. The time together and the love shared are the main reasons to celebrate. Yet, this situation is also largely a myth. At the very least, a recipient of largess feels an obligation to somehow return the favor. We are reminded of the importance of being a gracious giftee.

The wise father of one of my friends advised me to never get my emotions wrapped up in exaggerated expectations, regardless of the time of year, or scenario. He further warned me not to create great expectations in others about myself. If one has a virtue, it is best to be quiet about it. The virtue will be obvious on its own if it is truly present in a person.

People who celebrate themselves or who try to cultivate cult-followings by creating impressive expectations, create suffering in the end. After all, the reality of life rarely, if ever matches the rose-colored idealism of imagined fantasy.

Although we may be motivated by our own high expectations, we are reminded that the actual is different than the imagined. Our imaginations tend to give birth to hope and expectations of what we may be unable to deliver. Regardless of how wonderful and seemingly perfect a person or a thing might be or how perfect an ideal may present itself, they can never fully fulfill any high expectations. When people find themselves disappointed after harboring high expectations, they are disillusioned and unimpressed with whomever led them down the garden path of supposed infallibility.

High expectations falsify truth. It is better to not oversell oneself to others. A person who keeps an even keel, understands that it is best to foster moderate, realistic attitudes. That way, if the reality turns out to exceed expectations, more people will be pleased in the end.

On the other hand, it is best not to live down to mediocre expectations. We can set high personal expectations for ourselves. They will motivate us to go into the world and do remarkable things. However, if we stumble and fail, it is best not to become hostile with ourselves. If we harbor excessively fanciful expectations we will eventually be confronted with the reality of the world at large. Such inappropriately high self expectations are the seeds of depression and stress. At least this has been my personal experience.


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes comic novelist, V.S. Naipaul. “One isn’t born one’s self. One is born with a mass of expectations, a mass of other people’s ideas–and you have to work through it all.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in Gadgets, Meanderings, philosophy and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Expectations

  1. I read about this idea recently. The happiness = reality – expectations concept, so one way to increase happiness is by decreasing expectations (as we don’t have often have much control over reality). I agree with this to an extent, but there comes a point when expectations shouldn’t be lowered

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