Years ago, I attended a talk that led to one of the biggest epiphanies of my life. The speaker took the complicated world of emotions and distilled it down into a simple equation with only two variables: reality and expectations. After I took this information in, my mind began to race through all the past events that brought me emotional pain and suffering. They all fit the equation that I’m about to share with you today. Get ready to PREP your self for….
THE HAPPINESS EQUATION[Perceived Reality] – [Expectation or Preference] = Emotional State
- If your perceived reality (PR) is > than your expectation or preference (EP) you will have a positive emotional reaction
- If your perceived reality (PR) is < than your expectation or preference (EP) you will have a negative emotional reaction
Note: This is more of a philosophical equation. PR and EP are subjective terms and not easily quantifiable.
Examples of the Happiness Equation in Action:
Expectation or Preference: Get a perfect score on your exam.
Perceived Reality: You got a B+.
Emotional State: Disappointment
PR (B+) < EP (A+) = negative emotional reactions
On the flip side, if Sophia’s expectation is to get a B on the exam and her perceived reality is a B+ she will feel proud and happy. PR (B+) > EP (B) = positive emotional reactions
Expectation or Preference: Follow your meal plan perfectly all week without engaging in any eating disorder behaviors
Perceived Reality: You binge Friday night, restrict Saturday and binge Sunday.
Emotional State: Upset, demotivated, unworthy
PR (binging and restricting) < EP (perfect compliance to meal plan) = negative emotions
Expectation or Preference: Cute guy that you gave your number to will call and ask you out.
Perceived Reality: He hasn’t called.
Emotional State: Let down, insecure, unworthy
PR (no phone call) < EP (phone call) = negative emotions
This equation seems so simple, right? It is, that is the beauty! What you expect versus what happens plays a super important role in your emotional state and its intensity. You don’t have to abandon all expectations in order to live a happy life, but it is important to be aware of them especially when they lead to pain and suffering.