We were at the dinner table, eating spaghetti and meatballs. As I raised my fork, I paused and made a declaration.
“We need some Vitamin Sea. Let’s go to Florida.”
No convincing was needed. Everyone dropped their silverware and pushed themselves back from the table. We hastily packed a few bags and loaded into the car, leaving our dirty dishes behind. We were off!
Ok…that’s not exactly how it went when Kim and I decided our family needed a break and chose Destin as our destination. Spaghetti wasn’t involved, there were about two weeks between the decision and the departure, and we left our home pretty tidy.
The first version of the story may be more dramatic, but we would have missed the best part.
The anticipation of a positive experience is at least as valuable and enjoyable as the experience itself.
Our January was dominated by the decline in health and the death of Kim’s father. It was an exhausting ride filled with uncertainty and big emotions. We originally planned to shelve our annual winter tradition of heading south for some sun, but after the month we’d had, we needed a reset. We needed to process the cyclone we’d just experienced. We needed to heal.
And let me tell you, those two weeks of anticipation were just as valuable as the week we were actually gone.
We made the decision before the wake and the funeral, so the upcoming trip served as a light at the end of the tunnel as we pushed through the home stretch of emotional turmoil and family obligations. Imagining the rhythmic waves of the ocean, the soft sand on our toes, and the chance to frolic in the heated outdoor pool fueled us and kept us moving forward, one day at a time.
I’ve written before about how anticipation is the electricity of childhood, and a power source we adults don’t plug into nearly enough.
Those two weeks of waiting cost exactly zero dollars, effectively making them free happiness. That’s what anticipation does. It makes you happy as you live good moments in advance, through your imagination. It fills you with a sense of hope and extra excitement, making it easier to navigate the valleys in your day-to-day.
That’s the reason for my theory that you should always have a vacation on your calendar to look forward to.
But I’m not alone in this thinking. “Imagining good things ahead of us makes us feel better in the current moment,” says Simon A. Rego, the chief psychologist at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, who has written extensively on the effect of anticipation on mood. “It can increase motivation, optimism, and patience and decrease irritability.”
Neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez says, “Anticipation can be the key driving force in motivating yourself to get through life as you look forward to something that gives you a sense of optimism toward the future. If you’re having difficulty dealing with the past or present, anticipating what’s next can help get you through it.”
“The suspense is terrible, I hope it will last.”–Willy Wonka
As we drove back home after our week was over, grateful for the good memories and the chance to get away, we started imagining our next adventure. Kim and I spent several hours dreaming about the year ahead, filling our calendar with experiences to look forward to.
What about you? Is your next vacation already on the books?
Of course, you don’t need a full-on vacation or a ton of money to take advantage of the power of anticipation.
Our family Sabbath delivers that on a regular basis. As business owners and homeschoolers with three kids, our weeks are fuller than a house occupied by Bob Saget, John Stamos, and Dave Coulier. But we manage to carve out one day a week with nothing but whitespace. It keeps us going because we know there’s a place to land and fill our cups after all this activity.
In addition, most weeks Kim and I have a date night, which serves as another little bright spot to look forward to, besides, you know, actually strengthening our marriage.
Since moving to Sheboygan, we take off Fridays during the summer, designating them as “beach days.” After a few lazy hours spent on the edge of Lake Michigan, we return home, order pizza, and watch a movie. We all look forward to those days.
What small things could you plug into your calendar that will give you something to look forward to? Perhaps a get-together with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. A surprise birthday party. A celebratory meal out. A day trip to a state park. Heck, our beloved Celebrate Everything calendar even gives you permission to make up your own holiday if you need to.
Remember, anticipation is free happiness.
Want an easy way to keep Adultitis at bay?
Always have a vacation on your calendar and something to look forward to next week.