We see what we expect to see, not what is really there. Our perceptions prove this to us time and time again.
For example, would you think that pouring vinegar in your beer would help you to enjoy it that bit more?
I didn’t think so!
But what if you didn’t know it was vinegar?
Dan Ariely, professor of psychology at Duke University, gave study participants beer with balsamic vinegar in it without telling them and when questioned they favoured it over regular beer, while they hated it when they knew there was balsamic vinegar in it before they drank it.
Expectations change the actual experience we have. So we don’t just imagine that beer with vinegar tastes bad, it actually does (but only if we know it’s in the beer in advance).
How is that possible?
How can information change the physicality of our experience?
In one experiment Ariely talks about, participants were given a drink and told beforehand that it was their favourite brand. When they were told this information (compared with when they were not) the results of an MRI scan showed that more areas of the brain which light up when we experience pleasure became active, as well as those which are associated with higher level thinking and memory.
So the information we have about a certain experience beforehand is responsible for the quality of the actual experience to a large part.
What do you expect to get out of the situations you find yourself in most days?
Think of the number of situations you face every day and the expectations you have for those situations. Could you improve your expectations to enhance your experience?
I see an example of this whenever staff are sent on a course I am delivering.
There are people who are just happy for a day out of the office and of course most of the day passes them by as they joke around and enjoy the snacks and treats.
There are people who are frustrated about being out of the office because they have so much work on and they fail to stay in the present and absorb the benefit too.
Finally, there are people who are excited to learn something new and even if they just take one thing away, it may just be the difference that makes the difference and helps them to raise their game to another level.
Be mindful of your own expectations and how these influence your actual experiences.
In what situations could you enhance your own expectations?
Keep Making It Happen,