Use This Trick to Set Yourself Up For Happiness

I did it again the other day.

I was a few chapters into a new book when my initial positive feelings about the characters and the story began to wane. Instead of either committing to the story and giving the author the benefit of the doubt or returning the book mostly unread, I searched for the book on Amazon in order to browse the reviews.

It’s a silly habit, really. I’ve already purchased or borrowed the book. At this point, the opinions of others should hold no merit and I should instead focus on my own interest and my view on the merits of the book.

But I often don’t.

And in doing so, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomena.

Sometimes, I gravitate to the one-star reviews and read scathing comments about the error-filled writing, unbelievable characters or pointless story. It comes as no surprise that when I limit myself to the one-star reviews, I heighten my own sensitivity to the downsides of the book, often deciding to skim the remainder or throw in the towel altogther.

Other times, I really want to like the story and so I filter the reviews to only see those that praise the work in an attempt to see the book in a new and rose-colored light. But this often backfires, the compliments ringing hollow and syncophantic, causing me to become more aware of the gulf between those lofty expectations and my reality of the book.

After much trial and error, I’ve finally settled on a strategy that usually leads not only to my finishing the book, but also increases my enjoyment of it: I read only the three-star reviews. Those assessments that acknowledge the book’s strengths while also being realistic about the weaknesses. A balance between anticipation and assumption. An acceptance that nothing is perfect and that it can be appreciated nonetheless.

A recent study explored the idea of high expectations in marriage. It found that high expectations were associated with a happier marriage only when those expectations were realistic. When the marriage was characterized by a lack of relationship skills, lower (and attainable) expectations actually were correlated with an increase in happiness.

It makes sense.

Sometimes we mistakenly believe that happiness is the absence of sorrow. The lack of struggle. That happiness is only found when everything is going great and all five stars are shining.

But like those glowing reviews, that sort of happiness can ring false as it often ignores or suppresses parts of reality.

Happiness is found when faults are acknowledged but not focused upon. When expectations are high and yet attainable. When perfection is not predicted or pretended. When there is a balance between what is enjoyed and what is tolerated. When concerns are contemplated but not ruminated upon. When each good moment is enjoyed for what it is without worry about the moment before or after.

Happiness is found in the three-star reviews.

 

 

Thank you for sharing!

4 thoughts on “Use This Trick to Set Yourself Up For Happiness

  1. Mary Lou – I'm still here and loving it! Nostalgia isn't my all-time favorite past time. I like to live in the present and look forward. When you reach a certain point in life it's good to look back and review this journey with new eyes ~ in a different place in time. I've arrived at a place in my life where the experiences I've had are coming together to form a collage of beauty and strength. A time where I can put a little more time into my love for water color painting and writing. Creating this website allows me to share some of the expressions of my gratitude and amazement of where this journey has taken me. It's my hope that it will encourage others to share their own story through written word and art.
    Mary Lou says:

    Just ‘Wow’! Great insight! 🙂
    “Happiness is found when faults are acknowledged but not focused upon. When expectations are high and yet attainable. When perfection is not predicted or pretended. When there is a balance between what is enjoyed and what is tolerated. When concerns are contemplated but not ruminated upon. When each good moment is enjoyed for what it is without worry about the moment before or after.”
    http://www.meinthemiddlewrites.com

  2. Great Read this morning.
    Setting expectations at a reasonable level….

  3. ijustlookbadonpaper – In spite of my very Bilbo-esque attitude, ("Sorry, I don't want any adventures, thank you. Not today.") I've managed to find myself face to face with some dragons. This is my unfiltered version of identifying, escaping and sometimes accepting those dragons. My tale begins in a dark and unknown cavern of discovering my husband's sex addiction but occasionally emerges for some grand adventures. This is my journey to find love and healing, starting with me. But the already cool parts of me love both the chaos and the calm with my littles; finding new ways to love and improve my physical self that don't include my eating disorder; strengthening my soul with meditation and service and doing the Tao/Dao; and whenever possible, I love reading and ghost stories and rollerblading, I love hiking and biking and writing; and because I'm all about our mother earth, I sometimes paint empty liquor bottles. And finally, I believe that there is precious little that cannot be made better with a bit of Harry Potter. "It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." - Bilbo Baggins. Cheers to the times I've stumbled down the road and to the steps that lay before me.
    ijustlookbadonpaper says:

    I love this idea and insight. Fun read.

  4. Once again you have touched my heart. I needed this so badly in my current state! I really enjoy your blog!😊

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