Hello my dear happiness nerds, welcome back!
In the first part I told you in quite some detail how playing the sci-fi video role playing game Cyberpunk 2077 made me (re-)realize to my core that real life is immensely beautiful and rich—even compared to the jaw-dropping world of the game. In this post I want to reflect on another point the game made me (re-)realize.
Your expectations make or break your happiness
It’s probably fair to say that Cyberpunk 2077 was the most over-hyped game in the history of gaming. It took one of the most prestigious game developers over eight years to build, and in the process, the CEO teased and promised and promised and promised. And the fans believed and projected and extrapolated and fantasized. And the actual artists and programmers worked and worked and worked and burnt out. And in the end, they delivered what is for many players and reviewers one of the best games ever made but for equally as many the disappointment of a generation. What separates the two camps? Expectations.
I haven’t really gamed since I was a college student, and I only returned to gaming because of the pandemic. So, I totally missed all the hype. I’ve heard about Cyberpunk 2077 and knew it was a highly anticipated game, but that was all. I didn’t know any of the promises, projections, and fantasies. So, I bought the game on sale (and when most of its bugs were already fixed) and thought to myself “let’s see what all the fuss is about.” And I loved it. Thought-provoking and immersive story, beautiful and detailed world, fun and engaging gameplay. A masterpiece in my opinion. My expectations were met and surpassed because I didn’t have any.
Those who played the game through the lens of “they promised this” and “I hope they included that” and “this is going to be earth-shatteringly good, nay, epic, nay, LEGENDARY” set up themselves and the game for failure. For disappointment. For an utterly underwhelming experience. And that’s what they got.
But this post is not about a game. It’s about happiness. Because the same principles apply to real life. If you expect your partner to do this and your holidays to go like that and your life overall to be earth-shatteringly good, nay, epic, nay, LEGENDARY, you’ll live a life full of disappointment.
Nobody emphasized this point more than the stoics. “We suffer more in imagination than in reality,” said Seneca, “Don’t seek for everything to happen as you wish it would, but rather wish that everything happens as it actually will,” said Epictetus, and “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment,” said Marcus Aurelius.
Do try this at home
Be open, flexible, and curious about what comes. Or put in a different way: Wouldn’t it be boring to read a book that is written exactly as you hoped and wouldn’t it be much more surprising and exciting to be challenged by the unexpected?
You may want to give one of my mantras a go: “When you go swimming, expect there to be noisy children who pee in the pool.” This way in the “worst” case you would be right, prepared, and fine. In the “best” case you would be pleasantly surprised. Try it out for yourself, it’s free of charge.
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