Twelve 20-somethings chronicle their lives for WBUR. Learn more.
Recently, I’ve been reading psychology magazines that say the key to happiness is to “lower your expectations.” I think I first came across this concept in the Dalai Lama’s “The Art of Happiness,” but it seems to be becoming a trend these days. It sounds like giving up, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense to me.
I have interpreted it to mean that in order to achieve true contentment for myself, I should set more realistic goals.
I do feel that my goals were realistic early on, when I first graduated in 2008. However, I have continued to cling to the same expectations despite the overriding factors of economy, job loss, and looming debt. I am beginning to wonder if it would be better to set myself the goal of “happy” rather than “successful” or even “debt free.”
I bring this up because I feel that I’m about 60 percent responsible for my own unhappiness. Meaning, if I didn’t want so much more for myself, I would be content where I am — and therefore happy. The other 40 percent is the economic factors stopping me from reaching my goal. The question then becomes: Are you crumbling under pressure and giving up your dreams or just adjusting your outlook and reassessing what’s truly important in life?
It’s a hard issue to tackle because I can argue both sides. I started out expecting that I would go to college and have a career immediately afterwards. That hasn’t happened, in part because of my decisions and in part because of the job market for artists.
I wonder if there are many other ambitious people out there who are struggling with the same question. I also wonder if I would be even be considering this if the economy was stronger.
In a way, I’m thankful for the chance to deal with this now, instead of in ten years when I’ve missed a good chunk of my life because I was too busy with a career.
If nothing else, this recession is teaching a generation of people to pare down their lives to the absolute most important parts, and that may not be such a bad thing …