Do expectations kill happiness?

A riveting observation:

Denmark is the happiest nation in the world. More than two-thirds of Danes report being “very satisfied with their lives,” according to the Eurobarometer Survey, a figure that has held steady for more than 30 years. True, Danes tend to be healthy, married and active — all contributing factors to happiness. But why, researchers wondered, are Danes happier than Finns and Swedes, who share many of these traits, not to mention a similar culture and climate?

“The answer is, in a word, expectations. Danes have low expectations and so “year after year they are pleasantly surprised to find out that not everything is rotten in the state of Denmark,” says James W. Vaupel, a demographer who has investigated Danish bliss.

“Danes…harbor low expectations about everything, including their own happiness. Though not an especially religious people, Danes would make good Buddhists.They live their lives as the Buddha advised: in the present tense, not grasping at some future happiness jackpot.

Ouch. This especially, struck me:

“Danes seem to know instinctively that expectations kill happiness, leaving the rest of us unhappy un-Danes to sweat it out on the “hedonic treadmill.” That’s what researchers call the tendency to constantly ratchet up our expectations, a sort of emotional inflation that devalues today’s accomplishments and robs us of all but the most fleeting contentment. If a B-plus grade made us happy last semester, it’ll take an A-minus to register the same satisfaction this semester, and so on until eventually, inevitably, we fail to reach the next bar and slip into despair. More see here.

Most of us are seeking more SOMETHING (you name it) than they have, and a marketing business of one’s own can provide it (though there are no guarantees).


How do you live and pursue your business “in the present tense, without grasping at some future happiness jackpot”?

About the author

Kim Klaver


  • This seems to go against what all the motivational gurus teach, which is you need to have goals, you need to have a date on them, and you need to be visualizing about them all the time.


    Eat Well. Live Well.

  • Oddly enough, Kim, many people actually thrive off the expectation. The expectation of what's to come, what might be, and getting 'it'. In the end, when they get whatever it is, they are over it and have moved on to the next, and usually larger, expectation.

    Eckhart Tolle expressed that, while it's ok to set goals, make plans for the future, and so on, just don't live in them.

    I set goals. I make plans, but I don't live there. All I have is the present.

  • Kim you asked:


    How do you live and pursue your business "in the present tense, without grasping at some future happiness jackpot"?

    My answer without a second thought is NO! I have very big dreams and goals for the future of my business. Will it bring more happiness? I believe so because my goal is to be available for our only son (or at least while he's young) and be able to travel to visit family, camp when we feel like it and help my hubby retire at 55 so we can travel more.

    My business, family, pets and our health are all passions that make me happy so for me it's a win win deal to have high goals for all.

    I can't not want more so yes I expect and reach goals over and over and my life is mostly happy and stress free.


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