One of the most shocking things you learn in psychology is just how mindless and complacent humans can be.
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:
Indeed, our actions and expectations are often guided by mental scripts. In her famous study, "The Mindlessness of Ostensibly Thoughtful Action: The Role of 'Placebic' Information in Interpersonal Interaction," Ellen Langer had an experimenter ask people if he could cut them in line at the Xerox machine. The experimenter would say one of three things while asking to cut:
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?
93% said yes.
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."
Mindlessness and conformity. This is why people believe things like cars and jewelry will make them happy. (The truth is, money can buy happiness, but only if you know how to spend it: on experiences, rather than things.)
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.
These days, it almost seems like Instagramming is the point of engagement rings. The New York Times recently reported that more and more women are getting plastic surgery on their hands for their engagement ring selfie.
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.
All I could think about while reading that article was, Why? Is it really worth it?
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.
IMHO, this is WAAAAAY more fun and exciting than an #engaged selfie. (Not that we're engaged.) I can't think about this camping, kayaking, hiking and free diving trip to the Channel Islands without smiling like crazy. Wouldn't trade the experience for the world. Read more >
So. Instead of asking my life partner to save all his money to buy an expensive diamond that only I will enjoy (#engaged)... I'm going to ask him to take a #SixMonthHoneymoon with me.
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.
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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