A recent new client of mine asked the following question:
Dear Mr. Will Powers-
If happiness is the difference between what you expect (want) and what you get.
1 – How happy are you in your marriage in general?
2 – How do you manage your disappointment/resentment when you aren’t able to resolve an issue that is central to your happiness in the relationship?
[End of question]
Here’s what I told her:
This is a really great question. But I don’t think the happiness definition is accurate.
I’ll answer the first question (happiness in general) later but the second question (managing resentment) deserves a more detailed response.
First, let’s explore the definition exactly how you suggested it. What One Gets – Expectation (Wants) = Happiness
According to this definition, if I want ice cream (for example) and I get it, that equates to 1 – 1 = 0. Hmm. That doesn’t appear to work. What if we tried division? And, using the same example:
Getting (Ice cream) / Expecting (Ice cream) = 100%
Aww, that’s better. And I think it’s more accurate representation of happiness in marriage, and life in general.
Let me explain what I mean.
Marriage and Life is about averages (what you have is an aggregate of your choices) and each person (whether they realize it or not) controls their own numerators and denominators.
Let’s talk about getting what you want (the numerator) first.
If I simply just asked for what I want does that mean I’ll get it? Not really. That usually works for spoiled brats, but everyone knows Life doesn’t work like that.
Getting what you want takes a little work. It’s central to ‘giving’ more of your self, or sowing what you want to reap, if you will. You’ve heard of that, right? So lemme make this easy.
The only way to “get” more of what you want is to “give” more of what you want. If you want more love – give more love. If you want more money – give more of it away.
The reverse works too – if you give nothing, you’ll have nothing.
Note: I’m amazed why some people (especially the have-nots) still don’t understand this principle. Nevertheless, it’s that simple.
Giving More = Getting More
But there’s a caveat: you can’t get blood from a turnip – it means you can only get things from people who are able and willing to give you the things you want.
For example, expecting (wanting) your significant other to be a great (lover, listener, cook, father, mother, or breadwinner) is unreasonable if they’ve shown they don’t have those abilities.
Even if those abilities were present earlier in the relationship the question becomes was that person putting their best foot forward or what limiters are causing those abilities to be subdued. It’s up to you to figure that (can this thing/person give me what I want) out.
Ok. So If I give more I’ll have more happiness (that’s because I’m increasing the numerator). Makes sense.
So there’s just one way left to increase your happiness, and it deals with the denominator. By the way, it’s something that every person can control right now – this minute.
The phrase “Be thankful for what you have” serves as a great marriage reminder and it also fits the equation perfectly because the meaning raises your happiness level significantly.
Worded differently, if you’re thankful for what you have right now, you’re unconsciously decreasing your expectations. This ups your average, and as the equation shows, increases your happiness.
Being Thankful = More Happiness
Wanna see this equation at work?
Try visiting a few less-industrialized countries, and you’ll find some of the happiest people on the planet. Conversely, turn on the television and you’ll find some of the richest, unhappiest people on the planet.
Get it? Simple, huh?
If you wanted to get a double dose of happiness (this instant) try volunteering at a homeless shelter or a soup kitchen. You’ll be helping others (by giving more of yourself) and simultaneously thanking God you’re not in a similar situation.
So to answer the questions:
1. Very Happy
2. Just explained it – (by using the happiness equation we just talked about):
Getting [Increase Giving] / Expecting [Decrease Expectations] = More Happiness
See Her Response
Will Powers is known as “The Let Her Cheat Blogger.” He has been a writer since 1989 and started helping others find real, practical (no-fluff) solutions to their marital problems when he himself was faced with divorce many years ago. You can find more about Will and his Let Her Cheat principles at his LetHerCheat Weblog.