Do we expect too much?

Whether it’s a love affair, a party or a weekend away, we tend to create expectations of how things will be. This can be exciting, but it can also lead to disappointment if things don’t go quite as we expect. Journalist Merle Wuttke looks into the pros and cons of expectation. You can read about it in Issue 18. Here,¬†we share an extract of the feature.

A matter of patience
Andreas Urs Sommer, a Swiss philosopher who is a professor at the University of Freiburg in Germany, has a different theory. He doesn’t think our expectations of life have become too high. He thinks the problem lies more in the fact that we have so many options to choose from these days and we are desperately trying to avail of every opportunity we see. “We’re having trouble focusing on one thing,” he says. “Our expectations are shooting off in all directions. We want to develop ourselves as well as be happy in our relationship and our family life. We want to perform well professionally, but we don’t want to lose ourselves in work. Keeping all these balls in the air is not that easy.”

Sommer is a fan of Stoicism, the philosophical movement that originated in 300 BC. According to Stoics, people should accept their circumstances and seek happiness in things they can actually achieve and really influence. This is why wealth or power are not really interesting to Stoics. They also won’t feel terribly affected by things such as sickness or poverty. These afflictions can’t be avoided, after all. But the Stoic can work on not allowing these things to disturb their peace of mind. Stoicism therefore is helpful in managing life expectations that are too high.

  • You can find the article ‘Do we expect to much?’ in Issue 18.

Text Merle Wuttke Illustration Janet Hill