A few years ago, I started doing pizza tours with a few friends. A pizza tour is where you hop in a car, call ahead to pizza places to time it when you get there the pizza is coming out of the oven. In a day we did anywhere between ten and fifteen parlors. After tasting we would rate the pies, and I tracked it on a spreadsheet. Leveraging social media, we would pick the places that people rave about. My friend Mike started this during covid, he is a pizza enthusiast, I liked Pizza but never really was a expert in tasting and rating them.
After the first time we did this, I thought my local Pizza place was really good. After, I was like he is just average. But worse, as people bragged had good some places are we went to expecting them to be this unreal experience that would blow us away. What started to happen is I found myself disappointed often, and in one case almost shocked. The best story was of a place down the shore, where the disappointment was so bad, I had my daughter try a slice, she was like it is not that good. After that I gave a piece of crust to my dog, and the dog refused it! What happened also that going for Pizza at the local guy was out of the question, now driving a half hour to get a good slice has become the norm (if we were having pizza).
What I realized was that it was not the Pizza that was bad (though the dog refusing it was funny). It was my expectation that this was going to be one of the best pies ever could have aided in my disappointment. Expectations are not bad per se, in fact they are an integral part of being human. We have them for multiple situations like relationships, career, personal goals, or our favorite sports teams. In the case of the Pizza, it was a very conscious expectation and explicit expectation, but not all are. Some can be explicit or implicit, conscious, or subconscious. The expectation was also driven by outside influences (other people who rated the pizza place). But often expectations can come from our desires, past experiences, or societal influences.
I realized I have fallen into the trap of too high expectations. Something as simple as a slice of Pizza, was now a mental issue. I have been disappointed many times in my life, but just eating a slice of pizza should not cause disappointment. When your team loses a championship game, when your review at work is not superb, when you go on vacation and the trip was just so-so. These are normal things that happen. Of ourse you can find yourself in cognitive dissonance and make them sound better than they were but face it the lofty expectations made the experience worse.
How do you stay happy? It is not possible to have low expectations every time you do something. You can try to fake yourself out, but subconscious expectations may get in the way. The first thing is you must understand what is valuable and second what is realistic. Going to my local pizza parlor because I am in a hurray and need quick sustenance is not a situation where I expect to have a mind-blowing slice of pizza. Going to a Michelin star restaurant is a different matter. Thus, we go back to framing the situation we are in.
After we frame what we are doing the next step is to understand outside influences are often just well outside. 5 Star reviews on the internet are most likely fake. A review that matters is one that has close to the same taste, values and/or view that you do. But even then, it is a single data point, your personal experience may differ greatly. Was it a different chef that night, were they able to get their regular delivery of ingredients, were the tomatoes in season etc. So many things could impact the experience that taking outside opinions as fact can lead to disappointment.
Lastly, expectations are not the only thing that will make an experience enjoyable or miserable. No one and no individual thing can control your happiness. Things like practicing gratitude, helping others, and improving yourself can help you find happiness. When going out for a slice of pizza think what the goal is if it’s just to satisfy the hunger then enjoy the average slice from your local place. On a pizza tour, find a way to blank your mind of reviews and opinions and try to savor the slice.
This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain, I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free. I do read all feedback, I mostly wont post any of them.
This Blog is a labor of love, and was originally going to be a book. With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path. I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content. I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip. I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog. AI is not used in this writing other than using the web to find information.Images without notes are created using and AI tool that allows me to reuse them.