The Reason You're Not Happy Is Because You're Unrealistic

by Paul Hudson

Generation-Y is not known to be the happiest generation. Nay, we are the generation that self-medicates and kicks back with molly at blaring, color-orgies they call music festivals. We are looking for that peak, that maximum of pure joy and happiness — that same feeling that we get when the bass drops. We want that feeling, but we want it not to just come and pass, but to stay.

Generation-Y has a lot of these unrealistic standards that they set for themselves — without knowing it, I may add. Because we were raised to believe that we are special, we now actually believe that we are special. And for this reason, we expect our lives to be special. We expect to experience special experiences, have special encounters and have the kind of success that is reserved for the select, special few.

Gen-Yers are not aware of the happiness formula, which goes something like: Your Happiness = The Reality Of Things – What You Expected. The problem that we all face is that our expectations are so high that the reality of things will rarely — if ever — even meet the reality of things; forget about surpassing your expectations, which really is when we experience the greatest happiness.

We set ourselves up for constant disappointment. We never allow for pleasant surprises. We expect the unrealistic, are handed the reality of things, and grunt at the pleasure, or lack thereof, that we experience. Things for us always turn out worse than we had imagined and we blame bad luck instead of our own stupidity.

Setting the bar so high does a whole lot of damage. We turn down opportunities because we feel that they are beneath us. We don’t take that job offer straight out of college because we believe we deserve better — who cares about the poor state of the global economy and our unemployment rate? We break up our relationships after a year or so because we always expected our relationship with the right person to be perfect, magical; so when we hit some turbulence, we jump ship and put the blame on a leaky hull when in fact we ourselves, the captains, are to blame.

We expect moments to be more beautiful and more meaningful. We expect memories to be more vibrant and unforgettable. We do our best to overload our senses because for some confused reason we actually believe that the more input our senses receive, the more meaningful our lives will be.

In reality, the world doesn’t work this way. There is no good without the bad and you can’t have joy or happiness without sorrow and worry. By always searching for the next biggest rush, we are constantly raising the bar — constantly raising our expectations. As we raise our expectations, reality stays somewhat constant. So we expect more and more, but reality always hands us experiences that are different, but basically the same on the scale of excitement, uniqueness and specialness. Every time that reality falls short of our expectations, we feel worse off for it. We feel robbed. We feel disappointed and we feel discouraged.

This is the case for all aspects of the lives of Gen-Yers. We are always looking for that next big score — so to speak. We are an adrenaline, excitement, thrill and euphoria seeking generation of human beings. It’s an odd concept — I’ll admit — but we would all be happier were we not to expect so much out of life. I will admit: even writing those words seems odd to me.

I, as most of you, feel that I am entitled to all that life has to offer because I am alive. You know what… you aren’t entitled to it, but you are entitled to the possibility of experiencing everything that life has to offer. Unfortunately, you will never experience all there is because it would require too much time — multiple lifetimes.

Since we cannot increase the pleasure that reality throws our way — it’s basically out of our control — the only other option is to lower our expectations. The truth is that we will not all live the happiest of lives. We will not all be wealthy and have great marriages, healthy kids and a yacht parked beside our ocean-view mansions. This is not to say that we shouldn’t go after such dreams, but we should be content with the fact that we may never acquire all those material things or collect all those “special” experiences that we want.

We have to learn to live happily with nothing before we can truly appreciate anything. Generation-Y is under the illusion that having it all is possible. Well, it’s not. Deal with it and learn to use that knowledge to allow happiness to take seed.

Top photo courtesy: Comedy Central