To Be Happy, We Have to Leave Room for the Unexpected

To Be Happy, We Have to Leave Room for the Unexpected
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

It was Euripides who said once that what is expected does not happen, because it is when the unexpected happens that our lives can really change.

However, leaving room for the unforeseen first of all takes a receptive heart and an open mind. Because only then will we be able to seize the wonderful opportunities that present themselves.

Something sociologists or even economic researchers tell us often, including the well-known essayist Nassim Nicholas Taleb, is that we act as if we could predict what will happen tomorrow, the past and even next week.

Our ignorance or rather, our exaggerated need to think that we have everything under control, many times causes us to not know how to react when suddenly something happens that we did not expect.

This behavior or this basic need is explained by a very simple principle: our brain needs to feel that it has everything under control. It doesn’t care if we’re not happy; it just wants us to “survive”.

So, your brain will interpret everything remotely unexpected as a threat. The echo of a battalion flying the banner of danger.

In fact, people who hide the most fears, insecurities and emptiness often develop a greater need for control over themselves and others.

Every controlling person is inevitably doomed to the abyss of dissatisfaction and unhappiness. That’s what happens if you try to control the uncontrollable not leave the slightest room for the unexpected.



learn to embrace the unexpected

Learn from children: great lovers of the unexpected

Just show a baby something unexpected if you want to catch their attention. Their eyes are drawn to anything out of the ordinary. They love bright colors and puzzling things.

They possess a natural and instinctive ability to embrace the unpredictable and amazing things in their environments. However, we — with our adult, rational lenses — have lost this capacity. It’s a shame because we could learn a lot through it.

In fact, as explained by a study conducted at Johns Hopkins University by psychologist Aimée Stahl, babies between 9 and 11 months are predisposed to respond to stimuli that appear to defy logic.

To demonstrate this, a remarkable experiment was done with a group of babies. Two types of toys were presented: one that seemed to go through the walls (an optical illusion) and another that simply bounced against them

Interestingly, babies were more interested in the one that seemed to do something impossible: go through the wall. Experts concluded with these tests that younger children are programmed to fixate on the unexpected.

However, as we grow, the unexpected is often interpreted as something beyond our control which, therefore, can be dangerous …


When people are caught in a new situation we have no experience in, we usually experience anguish and stress. Instead of getting caught in the barbed wire of fear, let’s let ourselves be children once in a while. Let’s embrace all the positive things that the unexpected can bring us …
two kids holding hands watching hot air balloons

Leave a little spot for the unexpected in your life

Do it — leave the door of your heart open so that a new, joyful and unruly breeze may enter from time to time. It won’t hurt you.

Allow yourself a little spot in your life for the unpredictable. Things that aren’t written in your calendar and have nothing to do with your goals may be good for you.

Because the realm of the unexpected may be better than we ever thought. In fact, great explorers have discovered entire continents by chance. Serendipity has given us some of history’s greatest moments.

Steve Jobs once said at a conference for recent graduates of Stanford University that life is nothing more than learning to “connect the dots.” Many of those unexpected things that happen to us throughout our existence acquire authentic meaning when we see them in perspective.

Maybe you don’t like your job, but you made a good friend there who got you started on a hobby you now love. Maybe it’s so emotionally and intellectually rewarding you make it your new career. Then you set up your business and meet the love of your life there.

gif of a bubble in hands

One thing can lead to another. We hop from stone to stone in this unstoppable river of life, almost without realizing it.

But to appreciate the beauty and opportunity in each step, we must be open to the magic of each day. And we must have a positive attitude, because anyone who expects the unexpected with a receptive mind opens themselves up to opportunities for happiness.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.