Continuing with the idea of waiting thirty days to make a purchase, it turns out that anticipation causes us to appreciate the thing (whether we’re talking about a concrete object or an experience) much more than if we allow ourselves the instant gratification that we’re so accustomed to in modern society.
It makes sense, right? Something you work toward, or even just something you have to wait for, makes it more meaningful. Getting a raise at work creates a better feeling than if you had just started the job at the higher rate of pay. It represents a job well done. Remember Christmas morning when you were a kid? I couldn’t sleep on Christmas Eve because I was so excited about the morning. I used to think the excitement kids get was just something that we lose as we get older, and it is, but it’s not just age that does it. The reason we lose that excitement is because with age comes the ability to buy that stuff right when we want it. We don’t have to wait for Christmas morning; we can buy the new gadget on Black Friday and have it a full month earlier.
Fred Bryant is a psychologist who has studied the idea of savoring and anticipating. It turns out that the science supports this: when we get something we want, it makes us happy; but when we anticipate getting something we want, and then we get it, it makes us happier. A lot happier. I’m paraphrasing William Powers here. Stay tuned for a full review of his book, New Slow City.
Here are ten tips Fred Bryant gives us on how to better appreciate things:
- Share your feelings with others.
- Take a mental photograph
- Congratulate yourself
- Sharpen your sensory perceptions
- Shout it from the rooftops
- Compare the outcome to something worse
- Get absorbed in the moment
- Count your blessings and give thanks
- Avoid killjoy thinking
- Remind yourself how quickly time flies
I’m not going to expound each of these thoughts, because Stacey Kennelly does a great job of it in her post: 10 Steps to Savoring the Good Things in Life
I will, however, leave you with this anecdote: A newly promoted supervisor at work asked me how I stay calm when things go wrong. Among all the crazy of the holidays, customers that we failed to impress, crew members that aren’t giving it all they’ve got. How do I keep from blowing a gasket? What I told her is something I started doing after about a year in this position. I think about how I earn enough money to afford a nice house in a nice neighborhood. I have a beautiful wife who I love and who loves me. Together we have a cute, adorable baby, and all three of us are healthy. We have plenty to eat, and even in the Minnesota winters where the temperature can stay well below zero for weeks, we have plenty of heat indoors and warm clothes to wear outside, and on and on…
That’s #8. Count your blessings and give thanks. Of course, #6 is another option. I had a manager once who had been in the military. His mantra was: at least no one’s trying to kill me today. When we look at it that way, we have it quite good. We’re extremely lucky to be where we are today. How can we get upset about the little things when the big picture shows a view of things really going damn well? We should all savor that feeling.