Recently while attending Interactive Screen at the Banff Centre, a guest artist said something off the cuff during discussion which really stuck with me. He said that they joy, the happiness that we can experience from anything is deeply influenced by our expectations. He gave a formula
Joy experienced = what actually happens / how much joy you expect to derive
So, if you are expecting the experience will be really great, your experience of it will be reduced.
I can see how this works in many occasions. If you don't want to go to a fundraiser or that person's dinner party because you think it will be terrible, it's never as terrible as you think and you have more fun than you expect.
If you wish to go to something because you really really want to, it has to be pretty incredible to live up to your expectations.
I was discussing with a friend today how this formula operates in favour of arranged marriages vs love marriages. If you think that your husband/wife is going to be just ok, or maybe even terrible, and they show you little by little over time that life will be better than you'd expected, you move more towards Joy. If, on the other hand, you have married someone out of great love and passion, but every small incompatibility erases a bit of the picture of perfection, then you are moving away from Joy.
We were talking about this re: the Western need to have work which is on purpose. So many friends are searching for their mission, their purpose, their reason for being/working. Those who were born with a clear dream or purpose, who have not actualized on it, are miserable. Depressed. Those who were born without a dream or purpose, feel like failures for not finding it. Every moment is experienced through absence rather than presence of Best Self. The expectation is that finding your purpose, and working towards it is what brings joy. But if we look at the formula, working towards your purpose would have to be pretty amazing for it to bring joy.
There IS a factor of the formula in which effort mitigates the reductive capacity of expectation. Or maybe more accurately, risk. There's something about the unknown that neutralizes expectation. I'm not sure exactly how that works into the equation. It's just a hunch that it does. Unknowing is an antidote to expectation. So maybe we need to practice the art of unknowing the precise outcome we are expecting?