Have you ever seen a highly anticipated movie that let you down? Friends and critics alike build up this movie for months until finally you see it and all you can think is “meh”. Have you ever walked into a movie with “no expectations” and walked out impressed? I have been zeroing in on a great source of sorrow in my life. That source of sorrow: the relationship between fantasy and reality.
I think we are all guilty of building things up in our head’s; it is part of the human experience. The moment I plan a trip I can immediately visualize the awesome pictures I will take and salivate at the idea of sharing them. Many times though, I reach my destination and fail to capture what I had imagined in my head. This brings me sorrow…but why? Psychologically speaking, from my armchair perspective, the delta between expectations and reality is an emotional reaction. Happiness or sadness is met depending whether expectations are exceeded or missed.
What would happen if we actively managed our expectations all throughout life? This is no easy feat, one that requires large amounts of mental fortitude and self-awareness. Think about it though, if future outcomes/events were viewed through the lens or realism we could avoid a lot of disappointment. When I temper my anticipation, I find life to be more satisfying, entertaining, and stress free. With no preconceived notions in my head, I have the ability to create my own results along the way.
I tell people often, well those who care to ask, that I consider myself a “realistic optimist”. When I visualize a future outcome in my life, I always approach it from a sense of reality. I hope for the best outcome, but I frame it based on my lens of reality. With this philosophy firmly in practice, I can actively balance my emotions. It is not always fun, but when the worst happens it helps me avoid pits of despair.
While I do not like to think about it, a truth in my life is that one day my loved ones (and myself) will pass away. By accepting this reality, and when the truth becomes fact, I can spend less time mourning and more time remembering the positive. Life is enjoyable because it has an expiration date. Our time is limited and I want to make the most of it. My opinion is that time spent with negative emotions is life wasted. In a strange way, my thoughts on morality are similar to my thoughts on going to the movies. I would rather be pleasantly surprised than always disappointed.