June 19, 2007

How good does it get? (1) - What should we expect?

Positive thinking seems to be back in style. Positive psychology, appreciative inquiry, solution-focused change, and positive deviance are some popular positive change approaches. These approaches tend to focus on strengths and virtues that enable individuals and organizations to flourish. I think positive change approaches hold a great promise. Maybe they can help us to improve our lives, our organizations and hopefully even our world. But just how positive can we expect life to become? This may be an important question. If our expectations are too low, they can make us passive and thus prevent us from improving our circumstances. In these cases our expectations have become self-fulfilling. High expectations may be self-fullingfilling too, up to a point. If they are unrealistically high, they can turn into a recepy for desillusion and frustration. Expectations play an important and sometimes paradoxical role. A case in point is a party. Sometimes you go a party with low expectations and you are pleasantly surprised by how much fun it turns out to be. At other times your expectations are high -this is going to be so much fun!- and it turns out rather dissappointing. In these cases the contrast between what we expect and what we find seems to impact our feelings and behaviors dramatically. So, what is wise to expect about life? How good can life actually get? Is a problem-free life within our reach? Can we ever approach a total peace of mind, free of worries and fears? Can we always be feeling good about ourselves and our accomplishments and live in peace with our fellow human beings? Or is it wise to lower our expectations drastically and expect life to be one damn thing after another? Or is there a middle way? When is life good enough? More about this soon.


  1. Coert,

    Humans will always want to make progress in some fashion. So even if we achieve a high level of happiness we may not seek more happiness but we will definitely seek to do things that continue to promote and maintain our happiness. Although we may see ourselves as following our purpose or doing what we really want instead of trying to be happy.

    Also, I think all the positive approaches help people to be happier in a very authentic way that goes far beyond the false platitudes of positive thinking.


  2. I agree. I think the feeling of being able to make 'progress' is crucial.


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