Meeting Our Own Expectations

by Matilda Charles


When we were young adults, we no doubt thought that we’d be less happy as

we got older, that we were at our peak. Once we reached age 50 and

weren’t especially pleased because we hadn’t met all of our goals, we

likely thought it was all downhill from there.


A study of people between the ages of 17 and 85 shows that at two

particular points in our lives, we are wrong in our guesses about how our

lives will progress and how happy we’ll be.


When we were young, at age 23 (the first point in life where we were

wrong), we expected great futures even though the reality wasn’t

necessarily wonderful at the time. We faced tough circumstances with

student loans, home costs, financial pressures and raising young

families, but we thought we could handle it and would accomplish much.

By the time 50 came along, many of those goals had been sadly abandoned

as the realities sank in. Unmet expectations and disappointments colored

our lives. We could see the writing on the wall, we thought, in terms of

future retirement, declining health and eventual low income. We didn’t

see anything good down the road.


Wrong again. As seniors, it turns out, we’re happier than we thought we’d



How does this work? Expectations.


Through our lives, our expectations are different from our actual well-
being, and the two don’t merge until much later. We’re victims of our own

age discrimination, not expecting to be happy based on our own



It takes until around age 69 to figure out the benefits of getting older,

and we no longer care about the goals that once consumed us. The key,

researchers say, is letting go of regret.


I wouldn’t want to be 23 again. Would you?


Matilda Charles regrets that she cannot personally answer reader

questions, but will incorporate them into her column whenever possible.


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(c) 2013 King Features Synd., Inc.

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