Idealism and Unrealistic Expectations Are Holding You Back

How letting go of ideals could get you closer to happiness in 2023

Steve Glaveski
4 min readDec 29, 2022


One woman grows up dreaming of living in Italy. She dreams of rolling hills, classical architecture, vineyards, and Mediterranean delights.

For whatever reason, she winds up in Holland — and spends the rest of her life resentful of the fact.

Her sister also winds up in Holland, but she learns to appreciate and love its own rolling hills, architecture, water canals, and even its cuisine.

One place. Two very different experiences.

The latter is blessed by being able to see what’s right in front of her.

The former is cursed by her idealism.

The Curse of Idealism

We might grow up with an idealistic image of our future selves — where we live, what we do for work, what we drive, who we’re with, what we look like, and so on.

Perhaps you grew up in a loving family and were made to feel special, and that you deserved nothing but ‘the best’ — whatever that means to you.

Perhaps you grew up watching or reading fairy tales, and see yourself on a hero’s journey of sorts, poised for an eventual happy ending.

Such experiences can leave us with unrealistic expectations, and idealism can leave us both debilitated and forever sabotaging our shot at happiness.

Pursuing an ideal means ignoring the present.

Oh, I’d like to go for a hike but this weather isn’t perfect.

Oh, that job sounds like it would be really fun and rewarding, but the money could be better.

Oh, she seems like a really cool chick and her values are aligned with mine, but she’s a few years older than I’d like.

Idealism in Romantic Relationships

If you spent your whole life dreaming of living in Santa Cruz, California, but you ended up living in Torquay, Australia, you could focus on what you’re missing in the former, but it would come at the cost of not appreciating everything Torquay has to offer.



Steve Glaveski

CEO of Collective Campus. HBR writer. Author of Time Rich, and Employee to Entrepreneur. Host of Future Squared podcast. Occasional surfer.