by Anna Post
Today's post is slightly off-topic: happiness. The New York Times runs a column in the opinion section called "Happy Days: The Pursuit of What Matters in Troubled Times." This week's piece, "Lowered Expectations" by Eric Weiner, is so good I just have to share it with you.
Usually I write about etiquette as our relationships and interactions with others, both those we know (friends, family, co-workers), and those we don't (check-out clerks, waiters, fellow passengers). Often, I speak in terms of treating others with consideration, respect, and honesty.
This piece reminded me that it's important to first cultivate a good relationship with yourself to be able to build good relationships and experiences with others. Though Weiner isn't talking about etiquette, he is essentially talking about self-worth, something I find very closely related to self-respect and self-consideration. Besides, good advice is good advice, and if I look to the origin of this blog and ask, "What would Emily Post do?" I know she would say, "Smart man."
Weiner's article posits that having lowered expectations leads to greater happiness. He looks to a study showing that two-thirds of Danes state they are "very happy with their lives." He notes that Danish culture is one of lowered expectations, that in turn leads to happiness when expectations are exceeded. By contrast, he argues that as Americans we set our sights so high that there is bound to be disappointment when we fall short of our goals. And even if we do hit the mark, we have to then set a higher one or dissatisfaction will soon set in.
As an American, I find it hard not to dream big. But the key isn't to abandon big goals and high expectations, but rather to put our sincerest energies into achieving them, and take our happiness from knowing we gave it our best. In other words, we can succeed in our efforts, if not in our goals. As Marissa Mayer, a successful Google executive, said in this month's Vogue as part of a similar conversation about overreaching, "At least you learn something about your limitations." Weiner conveys a similar idea from the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu holy text, quoting Lord Krishna, "Set thy heart upon thy work but never its reward."
The bottom line here is to be inspired to invest in building something positive, whether it's a relationship with others or the one you have with yourself.