Community Add OnsFourteen Fundamentals

Fundamental Six: Lower Your Expectations & Aspirations


Perhaps the most devastating problem in staking ones happiness on long-term goals is that you can sacrifice too much to achieve them.

As many times as success seems to enhance some individual’s lives, there appear to be just as many cases when the pursuit of success ruins lives.

Tragically, many people loose everything of value in their pursuit of fame and success. It is a theme that permeates the great literature of all times. It is a theme that repeats itself in so many modern “success” stories. It is the theme of a man or a woman who discards their morals, betrays their friendships, turns against their god, rebukes all decency, and looses their loved ones — all for ill-gotten success. And as much as the world’s great literature and religious teachings point to the tragic consequences, many of us still fall victim.

For most goal-directed people, the sacrifices never reach the cosmic proportions found in the Classics; but the sacrifices take their toll, nonetheless. Some, in their pursuit of success, loose their marriage. Others, loose a close and lasting bonding with their children. Many find their close friendships have fallen by the wayside, or their family ties wasted. Most admit to having lost a lot of the spontaneity and “fun” they once had in life. And many acknowledge regret about compromising their “ethical self” along the way.

All this lost for success!

Was it really worth it? The research on happiness would say “No.” Partly, because the data seems to show that success doesn’t create all that much happiness in the first place. But even more, the goal-oriented person we described above has lost the sources of happiness (like marriage, family, friends, and “fun”) which really count the most in life!


Of all the problems inherent in staking your happiness on long-term goals, the worst of all is the possibility that you might never achieve them!

The media inundates us with a continual stream of “success stories.” Everywhere we turn, there is yet another story about someone who has gone from “rags to riches.” We follow the winning sports teams, hear from the successful political figures, watch the “awards ceremonies” on television — and somehow feel that success is accessible to all of us.

But in actual fact, such real success is rare. There are many more “failure stories” than “success stories.” Even in America, “the land of opportunity,” economic failure is much more prevalent than success. The problem is, we just don’t hear much about it. Statistics in the United States show that 95% of all new businesses fail within the first three years; 60% of all marriages end in divorce, almost 87% of older Americans report that they never came close to realizing their young-adult dreams for success, and the vast majority of us end up in just about the same relative financial position our parents did  a generation ago.

This is not to say that dreams don’t come true. They do for a very small few. But for most of us — if we’re staking our happiness on it — the odds are against us. As hard as we work — try as we might — there is no real guarantee that our goals will be achieved. And if we’ve dedicated our eventual happiness on the fulfillment of that goal, we’ve set our entire lifetime in a framework of chronic and never-ending disappointment.

Here then, is the saddest happiness forecast of all: a life spent staking one’s happiness on a goal which never comes to be…

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