In "Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert, a Harvard psychoologist shows that people have inflated expectations about the joy they will derive from a vacation, a new car or child, or a second dessert. We also overestimate how bad we will feel if we get fired or lose a tooth or even a friend or mate.
"We treat our future selves as though they were our children" Gilbert writes, "spending most of the hours of most of our days constructing tomorrows that we hope will make them happy." But the children turn out to be ingrates, complaining that we should have let them stay in the old house, or study dentistry instead of law.
A little knowledge from the psych labs may provide grist - not a guide on how to achieve happiness but on understanding why, in the end, you probably won't.
Cut generously from a Scientific American article on the book. I wonder if it applies to the happiness I anticipate from being done with finals . . . or grad school for that matter. Nonetheless, I think there is also under-anticipated joy in little things, like a walk along the park, a good cup of coffee, or renting a good movie.