How To Use Anticipation For Happiness And Job Success

"The anticipation is killing me!"  Have you heard this said before?

Anticipation is a powerful thing because it wraps excitement, happiness, and potentially some anxiety into a neat emotional experience that is channeled very specifically to one event. We typically think of anticipation as toward a positive experience but that depends on the event. Anticipation is in truth quite neutral. There was a Steven Seagal movie made back in the 80s made the desultory reference that "the anticipation of death is worse than death itself". Though grim, it's true, right?

Let's think about how we could use anticipation to our benefit. Firstly, the difference between anticipation and daydreaming is that anticipation is directed toward an actual, specific event that will occur while daydreaming often simply remains as dreaming in order to mentally escape a present moment.

How often do you catch yourself daydreaming during the day? 

Is it only at work?

Does it happen at home too?

What do you daydream the most about?

Most importantly, does it help? Or does it affect your productivity?

Sadly, daydreaming can sometimes lead to increased stress and further job dissatisfaction, acting as even more of a red flag that you might want to change jobs. An article written on the Buffer Blog, however, mentions the powerful positive impact that anticipation can create on our mental states. The article cites a research experiment that found that the anticipation that arose from planning a vacation inspires a dramatic spike in happiness that is completely depleted upon return from that vacation. In some cases the anticipation was even more enjoyable than being on the vacation itself. 

The article states: "If you can’t take the time for a vacation right now, or even a night out with friends, put something on the calendar—even if it’s a month or a year down the road. Then whenever you need a boost of happiness, remind yourself about it."

Depending your happiness on just the anticipation of a maybe-vacation in the future can be slippery slope.

The risk of anticipating is sliding right back into aimless daydreaming or, on the other end of the spectrum, thinking so intensely about the event that it similarly distracts you from your work in the present moment. Furthermore, if the vacation is never going to actually happen, you may negatively affect other aspects of your life because the idea that you are focusing on is categorized as far in the future, distracting you from being present and attentive to friends, significant others, and other daily tasks. 

A solution? Think of the potential trip as a rewarding outcome for the work and presence you put in today, no matter how far in the future that trip is. If it is a trip you will not actually go on - a possibility the article mentions - then modify the event to be something you will do that costs less while still is considered a reward. Keep it scheduled far out into the future so that you can still consider it a reward, but having to wait for it will actually make it easier to set the next reward after the first one is reached. 

As a result, this schedule of rewarding events creates a near continual flow of healthy anticipation and motivation while still getting the necessary work done in the present.