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Surprise! A Key Ingredient to Having Fun
How to hone the skill of being surprised
“Surprise is the greatest gift life can grant us.” - Boris Pasternak
For the longest time, I thought none of the men I had dated had anything in common. I certainly couldn’t be accused of having a “type.”
I joked that if there was anything it common, it’s that they were quirky and totally unique. The quirkiest among them being my current partner (surprise!), who is predictably unpredictable.
I learn something new about him every day.
Every day he surprises me. Yesterday, as I was trying to listen to a subway announcement that was going to impact our trip, he told me that he never pays any attention to these. I tried to debate with him that it really is necessary to try to figure out what they are saying, and he just could not be convinced.
I love being surprised. But yesterday I realized that I don’t just love it, I absolutely love it and that love of surprise is a driving force in my life.
I’m not talking surprise parties or haunted houses. I’m talking about unexpected flavours. Learning something new about my best friend after a decade of friendship. Realizing I quite like someone who I initially disliked. Stumbling upon art that moves me to tears.
Being surprised is the underpinning of fun. It the space between certainty and mystery. Surprise opens your eyes to possibility. It expands your mind. It represents growth. It disrupts expectations. It’s hard to have fun if something or someone is exactly as you expected.
Surprise = growth.
I dated the people who I dated because they surprised me. They opened my eyes to different ways of being and my own biases.
I fell in love with New York because it surprised me every day, for years.
I miss those days. Unfortunately, I’ve come to expect all the craziness that New York can throw at you, every time I step out of my apartment or read a headline. I’m not surprised by much here anymore.
“I’m not surprised.”
Think of all the times you’ve heard or said that statement. It conveys that expectations have been met. Sometimes it’s said to be complimentary (“I’m not surprised you loved meeting each other!”), but often it’s said as a pessimistic confirmation (“I’m not surprised the subway was late.”).
To be surprised is to embrace being wrong when our culture expects us to be right.
To be surprised is to be open to unexpected outcomes even when it’s uncomfortable to admit we don’t know everything.
To be surprised is to delight in deviations from your expectations when the urge may be to dismiss them.
I find it’s hard for me to allow myself to be surprised these days. I’ve seen and experienced so much, it’s easy for me to think I know how a meeting or subway ride is likely to unfold.
Walking home yesterday (from an uninterrupted train ride I might add, confirming my parter was indeed right to ignore those subway announcements), I noticed a sign in front of a hair salon.
It had all the typical images and text you might expect on a sandwich board, but I happened to notice a line on the bottom that read:
SPECIALIZING IN BLACK MAGIC REMOVAL
Oh how noticing that delighted me! (Note: I’ve returned to this spot twice since to try to take a photo, but both times I could see the sign inside the salon and did not have courage to go inside).
To be surprised is to notice the small things even when we may feel like we only have time or energy for the big things.
I have two book recommendations to help reinforce this point (both of which I read several years ago, and now realize I should re-read):
I think that we actually have more control over the amount of “surprise” in our life than we might believe. It has more to do with the intentions that we set (to be open; to pay attention; to embrace being wrong) than it does with shock and awe.
Anyway, in case I haven’t made my point yet, I believe that intentionally welcoming surprise is a key ingredient to having fun. One simple way to do this is to try to get into the habit of daily affirmations and intention setting. I recommend trying some of the following:
Suggested Daily Affirmations & Intentions
I can have fun without my phone
I am open to being surprised today
I will notice something new today
I love being wrong because it represents growth
I have more fun when I adjust my expectations
I welcome when my expectations are incorrect
I’d love to hear from you: when were you last surprised? What happened? How did you react?
“Life will be interesting only when there is an element of surprise in it.” - Hamsalekha