Disappointment. A feeling deep in our stomachs that we have all felt. The numbness that is wrought does not sting like anger or sadness. It merely wallows and persists. We do not feel this way because we failed. We feel this way because the results we see in life are incompatible with the ones we imagined. They’re usually not bad, but they’re not as good as they could be. Or the feeling of success in an endeavor brings is not the feeling we expected. Disappointment does not make one stand up and take action. It does not encourage us to change. It is a lulling emotion that roots us to our chairs. But this being an economics blog, after all, it is worth adding that disappointment is simply inefficient.
In your life and in mine, many, many, many things will not work out. We will try to accomplish many tasks. We will fail at some and be mad. We will succeed at some others and be glad. Yet, more often than both those occurrences, we will finish somewhere in between success and failure. Interestingly, people are terrible at recognizing randomness. Even if we lived in a polar universe where there was only absolute success or failure, our perceptions of randomness would probably lead us to further disappointment. How do I mean? Well, if you asked someone to give you a completely random series endeavors with different outcomes, you’d likely be given a list which alternates between success and failure. Of course, just like flipping a coin won’t give you heads every other flip exactly, neither will pursuing goals in life give you achievement every other try. Add this on to the fact that success is simply harder than failure, obviously, and you’ve got a stew of disappointment.
So what’s so “wrong” with it? Being mad is natural, as is being sad. The real point comes from the beginning of this piece. Disappointment does not stir to action. We don’t need to make a fundamental change to overcome it, which is why we rarely change anything at all. Disappointment, in the end, arises from setting our expectations too high. This is why disappointment can be so easily avoided, especially compared to the inevitability of anger, happiness, and sadness. Reality is not as glossy and wonderful as you’d expect. But don’t despair. If you recognize that truth, you might be a whole lot happier person. Low expectations are the key to happiness.