This is such a simple elegant concept and yet it runs contrary to how most of us behave. Six months ago this was the topic of a highly engaging dinner with a good friend. Since then, I just can’t shake the notion of what it would be like to start every encounter with this premise. For my last post of 2012, I thought it fitting to explore this idea and end the year on a positive note.
Why is such an uncomplicated notion so difficult to put into action? There are two forces that are at odds with this concept. The first is our external environment. A big culprit is the office. For many, work has become a breeding ground for discontent. We may dread going to meetings with certain people because they are so negative. We are skittish about sharing our ideas for fear they’ll be ripped to shreds. We use language that mutes the positive. We’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop because we expect bad things to happen. This way of being runs rampant in companies where there isn’t a healthy enough culture that keeps the behavior contained. And when we’re immersed in it, we end up with this twisted belief that it’s a badge of honor and duty to be miserable and find fault. How can anything good, productive and sustainable come from such a despondent place?
And then we have our own crazy mixed up mind. This beautiful powerful tool can play games with how we see the world. Not surprising, the more experiences we have, the more likely we will have disappointments. The more disappointments we have, the more likely we will get frustrated. Before we know it, all we begin to see is what’s wrong. We become quick to criticize everything and everyone. I was having dinner with some friends this summer at a new restaurant. We were sitting outside having a great time but one of my friends was beside herself because our waiter hadn’t taken our drink order yet. There was no reason for such exasperation. We were seated for no more than five minutes and she’s already chiding our waiter. It felt like she was looking for disappointment and jumped on the earliest opportunity to complain. Our waiter couldn’t of been more delightful, the food was really good but it was hard to shake the bad vibe that was created at the onset.
Believe me, I’m not a Pollyanna who only sees the world through rose-colored glasses. I know there is a time and place to be rigorous in thought and action. We need to have high standards. But it should come from a good place. We should want our life and work experiences to be pleasurable.
On the day I started to write this post, I went to Starbucks. It’s a particularly large crowded store and the experience can be hit or miss. But I went in anticipating pleasure. I’d get a nice coffee, rest my feet for a few minutes and recharge my battery. I get up to the counter, place my order and as I’m pulling out my money I hear “that’s ok, it’s on me”. My initial reaction was to ask, “Why? What’s wrong?” I looked up and she had a big smile on her face. I said, “thank you very much and have a great day”. I added generously to the tip jar and moved along to await my drink. I was left wondering did my anticipation of pleasure set the stage for this random act of kindness. I don’t know and will never really know but I’d like to think it played a part.
As 2012 draws to a close, let’s make a pledge to anticipate pleasure in 2013. Wishing you and yours happy holidays and an abundant new year.