Recently I did something that I haven’t done for 25+ years. I thought about it for days beforehand, tried to live wholly in the moment and experience every minute of it when it happened and I’m still enjoying the memories!
More of my story in a moment, because I want to talk a bit more about anticipation. Everything is now, now, now, right? We can get so much instantly that I wonder if we’re losing the pleasure of looking forward to things.
As a child I’d save up my pocket money for weeks to buy that special something. I’d go down to the shops on Saturday and hope my treasure was still there… all that anticipation made the actual purchase EPIC. If I’d been able to buy it on Amazon Prime with next day delivery would it have felt SO special?
When’s the last time you felt anticipation?
My husband often talks about the joy of leafing through stacks of records, looking for the perfect addition to his vinyl collection. Now we can download music in seconds from iTunes or Spotify.
We don’t have to wait months for movies to come to our TV screens – we can download them on Box Office instead of even going to the cinema!
Of course, this isn’t all bad. It’s so convenient to have things available 24/7. I get that, I really do.
But I can’t help thinking this culture of immediacy, where we’ve come to expect instant gratification, means we don’t savour every part of an experience or event.
Now, some say that anticipation is half the fun, but I disagree. I believe it’s actually only a third of the fun.
For me, there are three steps to fully appreciating and finding joy in any experience:
By consciously using these three steps any experience from going on holiday to buying a new dress or even cooking a meal can be a source of joy. For me, it’s mindfulness in chart form!
Back to my story…
The last time I was on the back of a horse, it got spooked and galloped off across a field with me a helpless passenger! Until, that is, the saddle started slipping sideways and I tumbled off, breaking my arm and collar bone in the process. Ouch!
What I should have done was get back in the saddle as soon as I could. But I didn’t. And 25 years later I wanted to wrestle the memory of this to the ground and strangle it into submission. Even if the thought of it scared the living bejezzes out of me!
Then I had the perfect opportunity – the last day before our daughter went back to school and some planned mama-and-me time. So I took a deep breath and booked us a joint lesson at a local riding school, followed by some cheeky shopping and a slap up lunch.
And I followed the three steps.
To say I anticipated being back on a horse is an understatement. Boy did I! I thought about it long and hard but whenever little doubts crept in I visualised the amazing experience we were going to have together, what fun it was going to be and I smiled.
When we arrived at the stables I consciously immersed myself in every detail of the ride using all my senses (I can still smell the horsehage) and tried to live completely in the moment – not thinking about what could or might happen, but actually what was happening. And you know what? As soon as I relaxed, my body remembered what to do and by the end of the lesson I was trotting confidently. Not bad after a quarter of a century, eh?
Over lunch my big girl and I talked about our fun morning and the bits that we both liked best. Sharing those memories and really savouring them was SO special.
And you know what? I felt amazing for overcoming my fear and getting back in the saddle, literally!
How to squeeze every ounce of joy out of any experience…
To keep those happy memories lingering we need to cultivate anticipation before an event and gratitude after it. So think about an event you’ve got coming up this year – perhaps it’s a birthday, a holiday, a blog conference if you’re a blogger or just a special day out with your kids or a friend’s. You could even choose a shopping trip to buy something special, just for you.
What can you do to help you anticipate this event? Think about how you’re going to feel and describe it in one positive sentence. Write a note in your journal or just daydream the best possible outcome for the day.
How can you really savour the moment when it happens? Remind yourself to STOP for a moment and consciously BE THERE in that space, at that time – use your senses; sight, sound, taste, hearing to fully immerse yourself in the experience. Take a photo if you like to capture the moment but not so many that you’re watching rather than living the moment.
How will you capture the event to keep the memory going? Afterwards take a moment to reflect on what it was like to be there, write in your journal or a blog post or just talk about it with others. Preserve the memories LONG TERM by adding a note to your calendar or diary for a month ahead so that you can consciously celebrate the moment again. Or why not create a happy memories book or jar to give you a lift when things aren’t going so well?
Let’s anticipate, savour and remember our amazing experiences my friends!