Happiness = Surprise - Expectations
This past weekend I woke up only to find my internet sleeping. After the customary self-diagnosis (restart router, try with a different phone/tablet etc.), I called up the service provider and filed my complaint. I am used to (yes, an expectation) receiving call from the technician within 45-60 minutes of the complaint, giving me the good news that the issue has been addressed. This time however, the call didn’t come (surprise, but not of the good variety).
I waited and waited and waited for nearly 3 hours and finally called back inquiring status of my complaint. I was told that the issue is much bigger and that some part at their end will require replacement. This however, will get done only by the following day (polite way of letting me know to not call again) and that they appreciate my business (and patience).
Can you imagine life without internet on a weekend? From the viewpoint of my teenage son, this is a big disaster. I don’t know what is worse - unable to read sports and tech news on phone or missing out on the latest gossip on Facebook? Needless to say, I was in his firing zone as if I was the cause of this mishap. He shrugged his shoulders after hearing “I have spoken with them and this will get done by tomorrow because some part requires replacement which is not possible today.” It won’t take much to guess his mood or mine $@%!
I and possibly my son, had reconciled to the reality that we will not have the internet access for the day and were coping with the reality. You can imagine my reaction when I received SMS alert that evening that the “complaint” had been serviced and that the connection was now functional. I immediately verified that claim and excitedly alerted my son “Eureka”. Guess my mood now!
I had high (+) expectations that my query will be addressed expeditiously.
I was surprised (-) that this issue will take longer to fix.
The result (Surprise – Happiness) was not so positive resulting in little or no happiness.
I had low expectations that the issue will get fixed today.
I discover (+ surprise) in the evening that the issue has been addressed.
The result (Surprise – Expectations) is genuine happiness.
Life, in general, is similar to this narrative. We often have high expectations from situations, people, and circumstances. “I have done my job well and expect praise from my boss”. Or, “I put in extra hours and all that dimwit could notice were errors”. Sometimes, we even have lower expectations based on earlier experiences – “I don’t expect him to remember my parent’s birthday (secretly wish though)”. What happens when someone exceeds or fails those expectations?
Surprises, have a way of amplifying or deflating those expectations and converting them into feelings. I was not expecting that internet connection to be fixed the same day and was pleasantly surprised when it was. Against the backdrop of low expectation, the positive surprise turned that small dose of good news appear even bigger.
I now keep this mind when working with self and others – the higher is the expectation, the bigger is the surprise I have to plan for that extra ounce of happiness. If one of them is given, I try to focus and change the other to deliver happiness.
This is the formula for my happiness, what is yours?