Why a little surprise can turn an ordinary night into a meaningful one

THE GREAT DINNER PARTY CHALLENGE

Single Leaf
PART TWO:
WHY YOU NEED SURPRISE IN YOUR LIFE TO HELP YOU THRIVE

At Hampton Manor, we are  guardians of people’s landmark moments.

Over the years, we’ve learnt how to look after people’s events with just the right amount of surprise.

Too much surprise can bring anxiety. But too little, results in a lack lustre experience. So come along with us and find out how a little surprise can elevate your memories.

Here are four reasons you should consider bringing some surprise into your life:

1/ Surprise is a powerful way to make us pivot.

The whole world is talking about how we pivot right now. We’re all taking stock of our lives and what they mean.

Let’s face it. For all the daring exploits and the bucket lists we dream up, humans are creatures of habit. Some habits are life building. Some, not so much. But once we’ve adopted a habit, it’s hard to get us out of them. We become what we repeat.

Surprisologists, Tania Luna and Dr Renninger, say surprise is a sequence. It makes us freeze – that’s the ‘uh!’ face we pull. But it’s the freeze moment that stops us in our tracks and makes us pay attention. We have to stop before we can turn around. We can’t change without it.

2/ Surprise create openness and curiousness.

Once we’ve been stopped in our tracks, we go into ‘find’ mode. Often, we move through life with a fairly fixed set of beliefs because that is what is most comfortable. But when a surprise unveils a mystery, our minds get curious and we search for the meaning.

Openness leads to connection and growth. Guardedness leads to distance.

Think about your last argument – how curious were you about the other person’s point of view. More than likely, we are wedded to our version of the story. Curiousness is a bomb detonator for conflict.

Think about your first date – those conversations that went long into the night that made you think, ‘is this the one?’. They’re fuelled by listening, openness and curiosity.

But curiousness is a state of being we have to nurture and practice. Surprise is a fun and experiential tool for training curiosity.

 

3/ Surprise makes us shift

Children don’t think like we do. They have very flexible frameworks for understanding the world. As we get older, we become more stuck in our ways of thinking. We also think with confirmation bias – a tendency to seek information that confirms what we already believe.

‘I wouldn’t enjoy that’. ‘That’s not my cup of tea’. ‘People would think this of me if I…’

This means we often try to keep surprise out – and control in. When we do shift and welcome openness, a surprise can often be the trigger.

What could you find yourself saying with a little surprise in your life:

‘I had no idea that you could do that!’.

‘I had no idea that I’d find a new passion at this time in life.’

‘I hadn’t realised that you felt like that.’

4/ Surprise is a conversation kick starter

The more surprising something is, the more we have to process – so we talk about it! We tell our friends, we tell stories about it. And then they tell stories about it! An experience or a dish with an element of surprise is always the one we share first.

5/ Surprise shapes your memory

When we start telling stories about things, an experience has a way of writing it’s way into our memory. We remember it in more detail. It grows in significance. And significant memories shape who we are. So make sure you’re planning in some good surprises in your life so that the negative surprises don’t become the dominant story.

Next week, we’ll explore some expert ways to practically plan surprises that turn the mundane into meaningful experiences.