Scientists estimate that about 90% of what we do is automated. It happens without conscious or deliberate thought -- even when we seem to be actively involved in a situation. ABC's Would You Fall For That illustrates this beautifully through a concept called change blindness:
- "Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?"
- "Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I'm in a rush."
- "Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I have to make copies?"
In the first condition, 60% of the people in line acquiesced. Seem high? It's not. 94% said yes in the second condition. And in the third, nonsensical condition?
If the people in line had been thinking, they might have realized that -- wait a minute! Everyone in this line needs to make copies! And the experimenter's success would have been closer to 60%. But instead, they were on autopilot. The word "because" triggered a predictable, automatic response.
What isn't automated is often... conformative. We want to be like the people around us -- and we feel very uncomfortable when we aren't. A series of experiments by Solomon Asch demonstrated just how powerfully we are compelled to conform to social norms. Or even social "norms."
Which, in my expert opinion, is part of the reason why women who have never cared about jewelry before get so excited about engagement rings. Think about it. We've got this "tradition" that a man has to spend three months' salary on a shiny rock with no intrinsic value. He puts it on her finger, and then what?
She shows her friends, I guess. And Instagrams it like crazy.
In Ms. Valencis’ quest for that perfect selfie of her diamond-adorned hand, she contracted for a series of six intense pulsed light (I.P.L.) and chemical-peel treatments and two syringes of an injected gel substance called Juvéderm Voluma XC for a total of $3,000.
In Manhattan, a single microdermabrasion treatment can range from $200 for one visit to $1,000 for a package of six. I.P.L. treatments and hand chemical peels tend to start at $300 for a single visit to $1,500 for a package of six.
To me, the answer is a resounding no. Jewelry doesn't make me happy -- so why would I want someone I love to spend time and money picking out a ring for me? Because that's what other couples do? Is it a showing-the-world-you're-loved sort of thing? Because I would rather show my friends how loved I am with photos of my husband and me diving with whale sharks than, say, photos of my ring with flower petals around it. I would rather spend $200 on a couple's massage (or a deep sea fishing trip, or matching swimsuits) than a single microdermabrasion treatment for my #engagement selfie.
And then! We're going to make a plan. I like to keep things flexible when I travel, but I think it will be good to have a basic idea of where we are we going, and what we're going to do. And, you know, other responsible, grownup things. Like what kind of budget do we want, and how much money will we need to save ahead of time? Should we bring our own dive gear, or does it make more sense to rent?
Because travel and experiences -- like camping on the beach in southern Baja! Hiking in Yosemite! Crab fishing in Half Moon Bay! -- make me happy. So happy! And once I get married, I might start having kids and stuff. My #SixMonthHoneymoon might be my last chance to do a big trip like this. Or, it could be just the beginning.
So, what makes you happy? What makes you breathlessly excited? Are you making the choices you do because you really thought about them and decided they were best for you? Or were you just on autopilot? (Remember: life works best when you live like you travel.)
Ask yourself these questions every day -- about the little things, and about the life-changing ones. Practicing mindfulness and making conscious decisions will help you fill your life with rich, meaningful experiences.