A few weeks ago, I had some realisation on how my expectation of things severely affect my happiness for the moment. I realise that whenever the outcome of a certain circumstance exceeded my initial expectation, I would be happy whereas whenever the opposite happened, I would be feeling angry, sad, disappointed, frustrated or some other negative emotion.

Traffic jams on the roads are a classic example. It takes me slightly over an hour to commute to work on the streets of KL every weekday. Because I expect to be stuck in traffic, I would not complain if I reach my destination in the expected 1-hour arrival time. If traffic was smooth for the day and I got into office just 10 minutes earlier, I would be very happy. The same can be said for the opposite. I do not expect traffic jams on Sunday nights but if traffic is heavy on the road, I would be pretty mad at the unexpected crawl.

Be Happier by Eliminating Your Expectations

These days I try my very best to drive on the road without any expectation of arrival time (or more precisely expect traffic jam everytime I drive and overbudget for time). If there is traffic, that’s just my luck and if there is no traffic, life is great! This tends to help reduce stress and anger level on the road and keeps me happier.

I would say it would be the same situation with your relationship with your partner. Expect nothing from your partner and you will never be disappointed. Or with work, expect your boss to give you crap load of work and not be nice and you will never be disappointed with it (Btw, if your boss is crappy, you should quit your job).

Be Grateful with Things

I believe one of the better ways to be happier is to be grateful with what you have. There are many things that we can be grateful about in our life. The number one rule that we should always remember is to never compare yourself with others that have more.

Even in our pursuit of work or a hobby, we must not compare our current state with others by  ’expecting’ to be at their position because the other person might be at a later stage of development. He may have started his journey earlier and have learnt a whole lot more. Matt Cheuvront put things very clearly in the quote below on how comparing ourselves with others can severely affect our happiness even though the event is a milestone and should be celebrated.

We constantly compare our beginning to someone else’s middle. Our middle to someone else’s end. And when you do that – you’ll find that you’re never, ever satisfied. You’ll never, ever be good enough. You’ll always struggle to celebrate your accomplishments. - Matt Cheuvront

I am certainly no happiness guru here but I am trying to set in place small habits to be happier with life. There is a saying that goes, if you improve yourself 1% every day, then after 1 year, you will be 37 times better at the end of the year. If you strive to be 1% happier every day, pretty soon you will be a very happy person.

What do you think about my thoughts? I would like to hear from you. Do drop a comment below or a tweet or an email at me@bobbyong.com. I’ll be looking forward to hear from you.

[Edit: This article appeared on the front page of HackerNews and there are some interesting comments on the HackerNews and Reddit thread.]