Rahil Arora

Security | Fitness | Mindfulness

Expectation, Desire, and Necessity

04 June 2023

The less we expect, the happier we are! Stoics use this as one of their core values to live a purposeful life. They recommend that we focus on what we can control, and let go of expectations around things that are beyond our control. This is something most of us already know, and yet we struggle to manage our expectations. Why is that?

I think the the answer is our lack of awareness. Our brain cannot function without expectations - they are mostly a result of the cause-and-effect relationships in ordinary things. This often leads us to building expectations during non-ordinary and complex situations which can be beyond our control. This is why being aware and managing these expectations holds the key. The distinction between our needs and our wants/desires/goals is perhaps an easier one. Seeing desires as a must is often something that can make us unhappy. Therefore setting realistic goals always helps.

To manage expectations better, Rolf Dobelli, in his book The Art of Good Life, recommends organizing the thoughts to constantly distinguish between:

  • I have to have it (necessity)
  • I want to have it (desire)
  • I expect it (expectation)

This is a good first step in understanding the scenario. He also recommends rating the expectations on a scale of 1-10 and then lowering the score to lower your expectation.