Subjective wellbeing is all about expectations. For years, philosophers, psychologists and some economists have been arguing that a “well-lived,” happy life is one without too many expectations, hence the formula: wellbeing = reality – expectations (attributed to two economists (Baucells and Sarin) who published Engineering Happiness in 2012).

Tailoring expectations is perhaps the trick: Many people in Finland and Denmark, consistently ranked as the world’s happiest nations in the annual “World Happiness Report,” attribute their happiness to low expectation levels. Likewise for Bhutan—the birthplace of “Gross National Happiness.” A perspective that merits reflection and is summed up with acuity in the following quote: “France is a paradise inhabited by people who think they live in hell.” Expectations are everything, and societal wellness and subjective wellbeing are more complex than initially meets the eye.

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