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Is high expectation a root of low mood?

Written by Tim on 6 June 2017

High expectation is linked to success, but can it also cause low mood? There is plenty of advice out there about self-improvement, how to be better at this and that, and how your life could be improved if you only believed it. It has a lot of truth to it – if you really believe in something then you are more likely to be motivated to get on and do it. For some people a good break in life is attributed to luck – the belief that if a person is successful the likelihood is that they’ve had a lucky break. Others realise the importance of their own actions in the process of that good break. You’ve probably heard the phrase, ‘you make your own luck’, which I think is true on some level. However, in a constant world of self-improvement, of always believing we could be better, how do you reach a place of ever feeling okay, settled, and that good enough is good enough?

A simple example

Small talk is the cornerstone of human interaction, and here in the UK one of the cornerstones of small talk is the weather. Amongst those who are drawn towards this well-loved topic, the clear majority do so in a negative manner. But why? I think it’s down to expectation. Don’t get me wrong, there are some days here in the UK that are bad by anyone’s standards, but much of the time our mood towards it is influenced heavily by our own views and expectations. Let’s take for example a dry but overcast day in May at 12 degrees. Some of us would have something negative to say about it, ‘typical British weather’ etc. However, this view would be considerably different if that day happened to be in January. The only difference is expectation and yet it creates two very different perspectives. In January, we expect it to be cold and so if it was 12 degrees and dry it would have exceeded our expectations. In May however, we in the UK have been instilled with some kind of strange expectation that it should be above 20 degrees and sunny every day. Therefore when it isn’t it doesn’t meet expectations and can have a negative impact on our mood.

What can be done about it?

This kind of incorrect thinking or expectation can have a big impact in different areas of our life. As with the caveat above about the weather, there are many situations in life that warrant low mood and a change of expectation may not help much. However, in terms of day to day mood with low level annoyances, why not challenge your expectations? Be thankful for what you have and don’t let the need for continuous improvement for the future make you forget to enjoy the present. Let a dreary day in May be your warm day in January!