How many times have you had dinner somewhere, or visited a shop, or gone on a long awaited outing or holiday and thought, I expected more.
You hoped the food would be tastier for the price, or the views better given what you'd heard, or the service wasn't as good as you expected, or you'd hoped for more variety or choice. So many ways things can not quite meet our expectations, and then the overall feeling you are left with is disappointment.
Most of us can be pretty quick to share our underwhelm with our friends, family or co-workers too, or better still if the service was atrocious or the experience a real disaster (think dealing with major Telco's or big insurance for example, or a day out that goes horribly wrong), we can't wait to tell our story of woe to others, and sometimes we quite enjoy this negative story telling and we might even compete for who's had the worst experience!
A lot of us have quite high expectations when it comes to the experiences we want to have in life, and an over-abundance of shiny '6 star' marketing and the big instant gratification promises we're sold can contribute to this.
So what about those times when the place or experience DOES live up to our expectations? What about when the food is amazing, or the view is more breathtaking than the photos could suggest, or you just have a great time, and the experience actually MEETS or even better EXCEEDS your expectations?
Are we quite as quick to share the word then?
Or if there were 5 wonderful things about it and 1 aspect that wasn't so great, how much does the 1 average thing overshadow the 5 good ones?
Thanks to our built in negativity bias, and thanks also to marketing overkill, we are quicker to point out the negatives or the contrasts than we are to share our delight, although there are good reasons for why we might want to balance the list a little more.
Here are 5 ways to help you appreciate more and as a result feel more satisfied with life in general.
1. Imagine yourself actually enjoying the experience
Our minds are extremely powerful in finding what we are looking for, so if you go somewhere expecting to be underwhelmed, you have already created that outcome for yourself. Your mind will make sure you only notice what doesn't please you.
Next time, before you head off or first thing in the morning, imagine you have already had the experience and paint a picture in you mind of yourself smiling and feeling content with it. You can add other people into the picture too and turn up the colours and the feelings and the sights sounds and smells. Visualisation is a very powerful tool.
2. Start telling the story of at least one thing that you enjoyed FIRST, before you pick on the things that didn't quite meet your high expectation.
Next time when someone asks you, 'how was your holiday/the concert/the restaurant etc, before you jump in to tell them about how long it took you to find a park, and how the drinks were more expensive than you thought was fair, think for a moment. What are 1-3 things that I actually liked? 'The food was really yummy and we got a really good table away from the kitchen, and it was so good to catch up with _________. Try to really focus on those positive aspects first and tell THAT story, then decide if it's worth focusing on the other.
3. Tell them about it!
We are pretty quick to complete a survey from a company we have dealt with when we have some negative feedback to give them than we are if we were generally happy. So many businesses, especially nowadays, rely on social proof to keep their brand strong and to keep business rolling. Spend a couple of minutes giving a Google review or a Tripadvisor review or facebook or complete a survey when asked. Or just tell people you know about it. It might really help a small family business to keep going.
This relates to those we love as well. For example, when your partner does something that pleases you, as well as smiling quietly about it, tell them what they did that pleased you, and how you feel about it and about them.
4. Notice the good things as they are happening and really soak them into yourself more often.
In Rick Hanson's books 'Hard wiring Happiness' and 'Resilience', he talks about the HEAL process to help us 'take in the good'. This relates to any positive experience, small or significant.
H is to Have the positive experience. Know what they are and how to have them. Could be just the feeling of the sun on your skin.
E is to then Enrich it. Turn it up a bit so to speak. Really feel it.
A is to Absorb it. Really soak in the feeling of warmth, of contentment, of love.
Then Link it to other experiences that might contain past hurts. This part takes a bit of skill to develop. (You can read a short summary of the HEAL process here).
5. Build your gratitude muscle
The only real guaranteed way for us to feel more satisfied more often, regardless of the experience or situation, is to appreciate what we already have and what is good. Appreciate we have the opportunity to even go out to eat, to consider taking a holiday, to be able to have the physical wellbeing to travel or visit friends, and that we have friends to visit! It might sound fluffy to some, although building your gratitude and appreciation muscle is the certain way to feel happier in life.
There are a myriad of different gratitude techniques you can do and apply in your life starting today. If you haven't applied any yet, you will be glad you did.
And your experiences will instantly change for the better.
'Trade your expectation for appreciation and the world changes instantly.' Tony Robbins