The year began with me being woken on January 1 by an expletive from my wife. She was looking down the paddock to where Bruce the steer was straddling the fence, his forequarters in the neighbours' property, his hindquarters at home where they belonged.

Like many animals Bruce is good at the bright-idea stuff, not so hot on the follow-through. By the time I got down there he was well over and had been followed by Bambi the heifer. Several neighbours and a couple of hours later both bovines were back where they belonged, although not without some extremely challenging manoeuvring in the process.

So, not a great start to 2020. But already better than many people's 2019 which, according to their social media, was a terrible, terrible year.

You know it's been a bad year even the Pope starts lashing out at randoms, like the woman who got a slap for trying to grab his arm in St Peter's Square on New Year's Eve.

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A young female relative texted me on January 1 to say: "You should do a column about how this is the decade the world will end." I could, but there's not really anywhere to go once you've said that.

On social media friends and family members were sharing sentiments such as: "Last year was a real bitch ... a black hole ... very glad to say goodbye to 2019 ... full of challenges." CNN is emailing subscribers to ask "Have you ever just felt hopeless after a hard news day?" and providing "a 2020 news survival guide".

But was it the worst year ever? From the planet's point of view, nothing can come close to that awful day 66 million years ago when the meteor wiped out the dinosaurs. For humans, 2019 was pretty good, with life expectancy, the global poverty gap and child health measures all improving across the planet.

But was it challenging and disappointing on a personal level? Of course it was full of challenges. Life is challenging. Without challenges and disappointments to deal with, we would just sit around saying, "This is nice", 24/7.

There is disappointment all around us, if you know where to look. A boiled egg can be disappointing. That piece of toast can be a huge let-down.

There's a trend to revel in disappointments. The year's end was marked by numerous lists I've seen cataloguing the most disappointing movies/albums/series finales of the year/decade. For some people the year ended disastrously because they found the new Star Wars movie disappointing. But if your happiness can be affected by how good the new Star Wars movie is, I'd suggest you have bigger problems.

Elsewhere there have been plenty of previews of things to look forward to this year, from the seven most exciting space missions to the top 10 new blockbuster movies. You just know those are going to be massive let-downs.

That life is disappointing is no bad thing. We're hard wired for it. Humanity has progressed because we are constantly trying to make things better, but to do that we first need to be dissatisfied. Which is why every year ends with bitter disappointments, followed by great expectations.

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The key is to manage those expectations.

Once you accept life is going to come smiling up to you before it kicks you in the teeth, you'll be a lot happier.

Once you acknowledge that life is disappointing, you will be a lot less disappointed.