A college student’s guide to happiness

Envisioning the first year of one’s career and life after college sounds extremely exciting. Waking up in your own apartment with your playful golden retriever and getting ready for your amazing job sounds perfect.

You’ll definitely start out with a high level career compared to your friends by making at least a $60,000 starting salary. You’ll cook delicious dinners every night and be more in shape than ever. You’ll go out to the bars with your work friends every weekend.

Basically everything required for happiness and success will be in your life. Or at least that is what we expect. What if something is missing, though? Or what if we have it all and still don’t feel happy?

The formula for happiness is this: happiness = reality – expectations. This implies that if you have extremely high expectations of what life will be like, then you may not be as happy if your reality does not shake out the same way.

Unfortunately, most of us millennials have expectations the size of our egos. Even more unfortunately, our reality will almost never stack up to what we expect.

This is a large cultural divide compared to what most of our parents experienced. Our parents grew up learning that in order to get to a great place in life they would need to work hard for years and years. They were taught that it was OK to skip a few meals in order to save money.

We millenials, on the other hand, believe in eating organic Whole Foods at every meal. We believe that internships are a given each year in college. We believe that promotions and steps up the corporate ladder will come every two years. We will be married to the perfect person at 27 and have traveled the world by 30.

This lifestyle we promote is far more glamorous than the lifestyle our parents experienced. Our expectations for happiness are much higher. While our parents enjoyed simple experiences like a weekend trip to Branson with friends, we desire a month of touring vineyards in Italy in order to receive the same gratification.

I’m as guilty as anyone else. My ego is quite large, and I do have high expectations for my life. My parents gave me hope growing up because they had a much more pleasant experience with their adult life than they had expected. Where does this leave me, though?

This will most likely leave me returning to my apartment (or even the basement of my parents’ house) on a Friday night after a 60-hour workweek completely exhausted. It might leave me upset with my future husband when he brings home burgers for dinner instead of my ideal organic kale salad with salmon.

I’m not writing this to depress anyone. Although it seems so disheartening (and if it is disheartening for you, you probably have the high expectations I’m talking about), there are things we can do to ensure our happiness.

Step one is breathe and take in the moment. Stop right now and think of everything you are grateful for. For me it is my family, my friends, the community at Baker and my faith. Just step back and appreciate those things.

Step two, and you’ll have to be brave for this one, is delete social media off of your phone. I’m not saying delete your social media profiles, just don’t have it on your phone where it can “interrupt the moment” when you should just be satisfied to be where you are. Social media is a tool for making yourself appear perfect and comparing yourself to others. In other words, it is a tool for making your expectations even higher (AKA happiness lower).

Step three is to choose happiness. I know this is impossible for some, but if you can, slow down with your life. Be thankful for every blessing and good thing. See the opportunity to overcome when you face challenges.

All of these things will effectively lower your expectations but not in a bad way. If you appreciate the here and now while growing through struggles, I guarantee you will surprise yourself and go much farther than originally planned.

This column was inspired by: http://qz.com/529162/why-generation-y-yuppies-are-unhappy/