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Question 4

Are you in your position because of your actions or the economy?

Photo prompt #4: Use ten objects to illustrate how much of your current situation you attribute to your own actions and how much to the economy. On the left: your actions; on the right: the economy.

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 …


  1. Zack at 11:37 am, October 19, 2012

    I am in a similar situation…searching for a job to meet old expectations of success for myself…I just got back from travelling so my history isn’t too professional (my choices)….but what I saw out of the United States was a far more positive outlook on the future…I think this recession is causing a lot of Americans to question their future goals and make it a priority to ask a very critical question….what makes me happy? Because going to work to chase a career or the rat race does’nt look like a solid bet, I am not sure it ever was.

  2. Sophy at 10:03 am, October 23, 2012

    It’s nice to hear there are others struggling with the same question. It’s also good to hear that things look better abroad, seeing as that’s what I’m thinking about doing in the next year or so!