Happiness = Reality divided by Expectations

I recently heard the author James Altucher make this statement, and a subsequent google search attributes it to the author Jodi Picoult. Regardless of its origins, I think the formula is very accurate, and can be easily applied to how happy associations are with their database systems and the effectiveness of their data management.

The key to the formula is “expectations.” The lower your expectations, the higher your happiness will be. For example, if you go to a restaurant expecting McDonald’s-level food, if they serve you much higher quality food, you’ll be very happy. Conversely, if you go to a very nice restaurant expecting good food and get McDonald’s-level food, you’ll be very unhappy. It all hinges on expectations.

Too often, I find association staff are unhappy with their data management systems because their expectations are too high, for any number of reasons. For example, I’ve encountered the following:

  • An executive director who wanted all kinds of data input into the database but was unwilling to enter the actual data! (Read here.)
  • An executive director of a small association who wanted to replace her current database and website system with a new one, but didn’t want to increase her current budget of $50 per month!
  • Senior leadership that expected all email data to be up-to-date all the time. When it was discovered that a board member’s data was incorrect, the ED wanted to trash the entire database!

All of these are examples of expectations that will set them up for unhappiness, because the reality can never match their expectations.

As my wife always says when people ask her how she can successfully raise four kids, “I just lower my expectations!”

It’s the key to happiness.

About Wes Trochlil

For over 30 years, Wes has worked in and with dozens of associations and membership organizations throughout the US, ranging in size from zero staff (all-volunteer) to over 700. In that time Wes has provided a range of consulting services, from general consulting on data management issues to full-scale, association-wide selection and implementation of association management systems.

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