Last week was my first time on stage to give an in-person keynote in 15 months! To say that I was grateful to be back would be an understatement!! Despite how awful air travel can be sometimes, there was a weird sense of comfort navigating different airports. Sleeping at hotels is never as nice as at home but it felt wonderful to walk into a Ritz Carlton and enjoy all that goes with it. Putting on a suit and tie used to be a hassle but this time it felt great.
We’re all experiencing moments like I just described as we emerge from the pandemic. It’s a good bet most of us are vowing to never take any of it for granted again…but we will.
States of Being are Relative
Here’s the thing about gratitude, happiness, love, and most other states of being; they’re relative experiences.
Next time I step on stage I’ll be grateful but probably not to the same degree as last week. The more I travel the more I will get bothered by airports and planes again. The next hotel may not be as ritzy as the Ritz. Wearing a suit after a while will become old hat.
You experience this too. You probably don’t get the same excitement over things that you did initially like a first kiss, first taste of your favorite food or drink, new job, or any number of other firsts.
It’s How We’re Wired
What I just described isn’t good or bad, it’s just the way we’re wired. We make comparisons in relative, not absolute measures. We see this all the time when we shop. For me the classic example comes from a survey I did with blog readers many years ago. Here’s the excerpt I wrote about in my book Influence PEOPLE:
Question 5 on Survey A focused on saving money: You are at a store considering buying a high-end electronic item for $879. While there you learn you can drive across town and get the same item for $859. Will you make the trip (approx. 30 minutes)? An overwhelming majority said they would not make the drive to save the money. In fact, only 13% said they would go to the other store.
On Survey B question 5 also focused on saving money: You are at a store considering buying an electronic item for $79. While there you learn you can drive across town and get the same item for $59. Will you make the trip (approx. 30 minutes)? This was almost an even split, with 49% saying they would make the drive.
Here’s the point: Look at both questions again and you see the savings is exactly the same, $20. Yet, half will make the drive to save $20 on a $79 purchase, but nearly nine in 10 would not when considering the same savings, but on a big-ticket item. Saving $20, whether on an expensive item or lower priced item, is still a $20 savings! Most people reading this would probably drive across town if they heard someone was giving away $20 bills for free (limit one per person), which is really the same as saving $20 on a purchase, no matter how large or small. But, as you can see, much of the response is dictated by what the $20 was compared to.
Let’s face it, saving $20 on a big purchase doesn’t feel as good as saving it on a smaller purchase or getting a $20 bill for free. Shopping is one of many experiences we have daily that fall prey to this human condition. It’s an emotional reaction just as are gratitude, love, happiness and most other states of being.
What’s the Cure?
Fighting this phenomenon is like fighting aging. There’s no cure to stop the aging process, but we can mitigate it some by instilling good habits around living a healthy lifestyle; emotionally, mentally, and physically.
We can’t change the reality that we won’t always be as grateful, loving, or happy because it’s how our brains naturally work. However, you can create habits that will slow the slide. Here are a few things I try to do with regularity.
Music. I have a playlist on my iPhone for Jane and one for Abigail. Each contains songs that remind me of them and elicit good feelings. Listening to those songs puts me in a better mood when I’m getting ready to spend time with them.
Mission Statement. I wrote a personal mission statement nearly 30 years ago. I listen to it each morning as I get my coffee. There are many parts, including a section on family, that serve as reminders to appreciate what I have in life.
Morning Walk. Each morning I walk a few miles shortly after I wake up, before I start my morning workout. The walk is a time to think, pray and give thanks.
These may not be for you but hopefully they stimulate some ideas on what you might do to proactively change your state. Whatever you choose to do, ingrain habits and view them as small investments that will pay big dividends. You’ll be grateful you did.
Brian Ahearn, CMCT®, is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE, LLC. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of only 20 people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.
Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE: Powerful Everyday Opportunities to Persuade that are Lasting and Ethical, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His second book, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was a new release bestseller in several Amazon categories.
Brian’s LinkedIn Learning courses on the application of persuasion in sales and coaching have been viewed by more than 350,000 people around the world.