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Gaining Back Anticipation

More and more, it feels like waiting is no longer an option. Can’t get a reservation to your favorite restaurant? Uber Eats has you covered. No need to wait until next Thursday to watch the next episode of your favorite television show. Now you can binge watch the whole season in eight hours. Expensive furniture? Put it on the credit card.

Our brains are designed to be a delicate balance between logical processing and emotional response.

At times, one of these two can get off balance and take over the steering wheel in our decision making.

When it comes to anticipation, our emotional response can become overactive.

We may experience excitement that can quickly turn into anxiety. The thought, “I can’t wait to buy that new game”, can quickly turn in to, “What if that new game gets sold out, and I never get to play it?”.

When I was wedding dress shopping, I remember the saleswoman saying, “If you don’t buy it today, we may sell it before you come in tomorrow for it.”

As someone who has a baseline of feeling anxious, that statement was enough to sell me on buying a $1,200 dress within five minutes. (It may have cost more than $1,200, but just in case my fiancé is reading this, we’ll say that was the amount).

The stronger the emotional urge, the less logical processing we resort to. This leads to more impulsive behaviors and acting on our emotional urges.

While we may feel good when we click the “Buy Now” button on our Amazon accounts, the short-term gratification does not equal long-term fulfillment or satisfaction.

Instead, we may be left feeling empty. The well-known Stanford study looked at how a child’s ability to wait was related to level of happiness by using marshmallows. Each child was given one marshmallow.

They were told they could eat the marshmallow now or wait fifteen minutes and get a second marshmallow. Naturally, many children were not able to hold off on eating that first marshmallow.

When they did a follow-up on the children who participated in the study, they discovered the children who were able to wait for the second marshmallow did better in school, and were healthier and happier overall.

Due to desiring instant gratification, many times we feel restless and impatient rather than being able to just be and enjoy the moment.

Luckily, we can start practicing waiting and gain back more feelings of anticipation and enjoying the wait. Here are some easy ways to practice anticipation every day:

  • Start making vacation plans for six months to a year in advance. Research dream destinations, figure out a budget, and consider new excursions to try.

  • Leave an item in your cart for at least 24 hours before deciding to buy. It is amazing how much money we can save by pausing before spending.

  • Mail a letter to someone or start writing to a pen pal.

  • Set one night each week to watch one episode of your favorite show.

  • Make a Birthday list or Holiday list for what you would like to buy instead of ordering as soon as you think of it.

  • Have a date night with your significant other or close friend one day a week or biweekly.

Through adding more delayed gratification, we can get back to not feeling as rushed and enjoy time for what it is. We can start enjoying the feeling of anticipation once again. Maybe we’ll even get two marshmallows out of it if we wait long enough.

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