Expectations can trigger happiness or depression. When you set unrealistic expectations you are setting yourself up for disappointment, sadness or depression. When you set realistic expectations you are setting yourself up for satisfaction or happiness.
Dopamine is the happiness neurotransmitter. When it rises above your normal, every day baseline, it creates happiness. Dopamine rises above your baseline when you are pursuing some goal or result and the realization of that goal or result, exceeds your expectations.
When it drops below your normal, every day baseline, it creates sadness. Dopamine drops below your baseline when you are pursuing some goal or result and the realization of that goal result, does not meet your expectations. If dopamine remains below your baseline for more than a few days, it can lead to depression.
The key to happiness, therefore, is to manage your expectations. You need to set lower, realistic expectations, while pursuing a goal or result. At worst, you will be satisfied with the results and your dopamine level will remain at your baseline. At best, the results will exceed your expectations, your dopamine level will rise above your baseline, and create the sensation of happiness.
Self-made millionaires understand this emotional tug of war that goes on during the pursuit of a dream and the corresponding pursuit of the underlying goals that turn dreams into reality. They make a habit of setting expectations that are low.
Pursuing a dream requires that you manage your expectations. If you do, you will persist in pursuing your dream. If you don’t, you will quit on your dream – the emotional tug of war will be too much for you to handle. Expectations management is at the heart of dream and goal pursuit. It keeps you in the game. It allows you to persist and persistence is the miracle worker behind goal and dream achievement.