Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Anticipation of Happiness

We get so excited by upcoming events and activities.  That party we're going to, the new restaurant we're trying with friends or the trip planned for the long weekend.  However, there are times that we really look forward to something, but when it actually arrives, it's not all that it's cracked up to be.

I'm in the middle of reading the 'Happiness Project' and I came across this thought provoking sentence. It is the "anticipation of happiness that is sometimes greater than the happiness actually experienced" (Happiness Project, Rubin 2009).

In Alain De Botton's 'The Art of Travel', one of the messages of his book is a concept that we are happier thinking and planning our holiday or travel than actually living the reality of it. If my memory serves correctly, De Botton even goes to the extent of saying that we may as well stay in the comfort of our lounge room chairs as the anticipation of our upcoming travel is on the whole, more of a positive than the experience of the travel itself.  It is a bit of a gloomy, glass half-full way of looking at travel, but I see his point.

I myself love travelling and especially going overseas. The idea of exotic locations, languages and food is a huge source of excitement for me. I love planes, seeing them take off and land.  I get jumpy just being near the airport.  However, when I actually get to travel and I'm on the plane, I can't wait to get to my destination, to stretch my legs and to breath in natural air. Then there is the anxious wait to see if the luggage had arrived and is on the baggage claim carousel, there is navigating a different transport network, getting sick or a tummy bug from accidentally drinking the local tap water, dragging luggage over cobbled streets, etc, etc. 

Every year I look forward to my local book sale. I can't wait to stock up on some bargain basement priced books that will enlighten me and keep me entertained. I'm pumped and excited for the day to arrive.  Then the day comes, I get to the sale and rummage.  I don't mind rummaging for a few minutes or on tables, but there is a lot of rummaging in cardboard boxes, on the floor and under tables.  The hall is inevitably a dusty environment, I have to squat and/or bend to get to some of the boxes (in pursuit of getting my book-related eureka moments), I scan my eyes quickly over the hundreds of spines of books, packed in boxes that I can't see the covers of.

I leave the sale, yes, with some books, but I also leave slightly sniffley, eyes hurting, a back nearly broken and feet killing from all the standing around.  Am I happy? Yes, but I was also happy looking forward to the sale, talking about the sale and thinking about the possibilities of the sale. On the whole, both the anticipation of the sale and the result of the sale made me happy, however, 'actual and lived happiness' came with a few detractors.

Women and men who are expecting the birth of a child, look forward to their arrival. Is birth time sheer happiness? Well, from the women I've spoken to ... hell no, but it's the idea and anticipation of a child coming into the world that makes the parents happy.  The pain and suffering of childbirth has to be endured, it is reality and a part of the journey, not always pleasant and a fun time for all.

Of course people will still have babies, travel, eat out at restaurants and go to book sales.  It's just an interesting way to look at the fact that in the lead up to an anticipated happiness, it is pure happiness as opposed to living through that happiness which has its pleasures but also its fair share of negatives and frustrations.


Picture from:

No comments: