The Difference

I’ve heard that happiness can be defined as the difference between expectations and realities. For instance: You expect to get a C on an exam and instead earn an A-. Big smile on your face. You expect to be considered for a promotion, but is instead asked to work as subordinate for a coworker who you swear surfs Facebook every day. Not so great. Pretty clear cut principle, right?

If I want to maximize happiness according to this idea, it is pretty obvious what I should be doing. Because I can’t control the outcome every time, it is easier and more useful to just reduce my expectations about events or ideas. Therefore, instead of seeing my expectations not live up to the reality, I am pleasantly surprised by what results.

I’ve been considering this idea more over this past start of the school year than before, perhaps because of college admissions, perhaps because of high school. Over the summer, I had the wildest and best hopes for this school year. It would be my senior year, with interesting and exciting mathematics, psychology, design tech, and university courses! I would finally get away from the tedious nature of the IB, and get into something that I could really sink my teeth into.

But life doesn’t work in that way.

Start of the year, I find out that we have new teachers, new schedules, and a school that felt so different than before. Everything was familiar yet foreign at the same time, and I wasn’t sure entirely what to think. There were more tedious assignments than I had considered to be possible, and the atmosphere was nowhere near what I expected.

I was rather crushed for some time, realizing that I had fallen victim to ridiculously high expectations once again. If only I had come into high school expecting nothing….


Today, I attended a leadership conference regarding sportsmanship, but in the opening minutes, realized something entirely different. The speaker on the video was discussing about visions and mission statements, oddly synchronized with the Business Management curriculum I had been studying earlier. Gotta hand it to them – motivational speakers certainly do know how to deliver to an audience! One of his main points was that as a leader, your vision is the unseen hand that guides all of your actions. If you have that image in your mind, you can direct others to greatness.

And I was like….


Because this means that leaders not only have to be the most optimistic people in the group, they also have to be willing to suffer the biggest disappointments. Even if an event goes perfectly, there are always little minor issues that leaders would pick up on, that they would say could improve by next week. And when an event flops, the leaders are blamed for the issue, both from others and by themselves. The difference between reality and expectation is almost always negative, no matter what happens.

Does this mean that leaders are never happy?

For some time now, I had adopted the philosophy of “Expect the best, plan for the worst” to avoid major pitfalls. But what really had happened was “Expect a crappy situation, plan for a even worse situation”. Reflecting, I haven’t been a proper leader for some time now, in terms of attitude. It may have taken 3 years, but I finally understand the difference between leaders and everyone else. Leaders are brave enough to put crazy ideas out there, and pragmatic enough to see them realized. They are willing to suffer great personal injury, yet strong enough to continue authentically maintaining a positive outlook. Leaders want to build others up, and make a vision come true.

Thankfully, it’s not too late for me. No more forced smiles. No more hidden dejection. I’m going to be a positive force in this school, and in this community. I still have time remaining at Interlake, and I definitely expect to use all the resources I have to make it positive for everyone, starting with my own attitude!



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