Sometimes we are pleasantly surprised.
A recent pleasant surprise for me was sitting on the lounge, looking out the door at the shadow and light on the driveway, enjoying the warm weather (it is summer here in Aus), when a cool breeze came in the door. It was just delightful.
This was only a little thing. Sometimes the good surprises are bigger and more important.
- Being bowled over by falling in love
- Finding the art or craft that lets us express what we have been wanting to
- Discovering a poem or other work that expresses exactly what we would have if we had known that this was what we wanted to express
Knowing More Than You Know
All these pleasant surprises match some kind of need or desire that we have.
Sometimes though, we didn’t know that we had these needs or desires.
- We can be surprised by who we fall in love with
- We may not have known what we wanted to express until we found the way to express it
- Some art works put into form longings that we didn’t know we had until we encounter the art work
Self Development Can Be Biased to Being Deliberate
Self development tends to value intentionality – knowing what we want and setting about achieving it in a known way.
And I agree with this. The first stage in my process of living a satisfying life is becoming aware of a need or desire. And then finding the satisfaction of this need or desire. Just hoping that things will work out isn’t what I recommend. Our awareness, consciousness, planning and deliberate action are all important and valuable.
And this approach to self development can leave out spontaneity. This approach doesn’t have a lot of room or give much credit to those pleasant surprises that come along.
The Significance of a Pleasant Surprise
Those pleasant surprises let you know that there is more to you than your conscious awareness at a particular time.
The surprise is because what happens links up with a need or desire you aren’t aware of for that moment.
- I didn’t know that I was longing for a cooling breeze
- I certainly didn’t have any idea who I would fall in love with
- I often find (at least aspects of) what I want to say in my writing. Occasionally I find that I don’t want to say what I thought I did.
The Value of a Pleasant Surprise
The value of being pleasantly surprised, apart from the pleasure, is that it tells you something about your needs and desires. Something that you weren’t consciously aware of.
Paying attention to what you are surprised by will tell you about your needs and desires. Perhaps a little, perhaps a lot. Something that is very surprising and that you find difficult to understand lets you know that something important is going on.
- Who you fall in love with says a lot about you
- Finding your art or craft can unleash a torrent of creativity
- Being offered an opportunity for work can release hopes you didn’t know you had
Being pleasantly surprised is very informative.
“But You Can’t Plan A Surprise”
Planning can only be based on what you are aware of. You can’t plan on being surprised.
What to do?
1. One thing is to leave some play in your goals and timetables. Schedule in free time, not just for the usual things that will go wrong, but also for unexpected opportunities and surprises.
Another is to be willing to change course. Being conscious, deliberate and intentional is invaluable and irreplaceable – and can lead to tunnel vision. Choosing to pursue one path means excluding others and saying ‘no’; it is also good if you are offered a better way to do what you want to do, or get where you want to go. Pausing for a few seconds consideration is usually a small cost and can have big benefits. If you like timetables it may be helpful to schedule a specific time to do this kind of reflection.
What comes to you spontaneously (without your deliberate choice) is valuable. Pleasant surprises are a delightful and valuable part of life. Paying attention to them will help you know your needs and desires – so that you can live a more satisfying life.
Take a moment to reflect and see if you have had a pleasant surprise this week. If you would like to share it in the comments that would be great too.
I'm Evan Hadkins. I'm Evan Hadkins. To find out how to live a more satisfying life you can download my manifesto on living authentically. It is a book of exercises to guide you to finding, nourishing and living from the core of who you are.
If you would like me to write about some aspect of living an authentic life please don’t hesitate to get in touch. There is a box in the sidebar where you can leave a question anonymously if you wish, or you can email me, use the contact page, or comment on this post.