Word-Of-the-Week #702: Vitality

January 18, 2018 by  

Vitalitythe state of being strong and active; energy.

Would you like to have more vitality in your life? When was the last time you felt full of energy? When was the last time you were stopped in your tracks by the unexpected?

This week features more excerpts from Jill Suttie’s “Why Humans Need Surprise.”  “Tania Luna and Leeann Renninger, authors of “Surprise: Embrace the Unpredictable and Engineer the Unexpected” argue that surprise, whether good or bad, is important for bringing vitality to our lives.

This week features the four stages of the surprise response.

  • Freeze—when we are stopped in our tracks because of the unexpected
  • Find—when we get hooked into trying to understand what’s going on/how this happened
  • Shift—when we begin to shift our perspectives, based on conflicting findings
  • Share—when we feel the pull to share our surprises with others

Each stage can be manipulated or “hacked” to encourage more surprise in our lives. For example, when we are in the “find” phase of surprise, it can help us to adopt a stance of curiosity, asking questions rather than looking for answers right away, which can lead to worldview shifts. So, let’s say you are a Democrat and feel that all Republicans are “crazy”—then you meet a Republican and fall into a very sane, thoughtful conversation. This experience may make you stop and, if you are willing, get curious. It might even make you think about political disagreements in new ways. 

Funny, I don’t think of sharing as part of surprise; but apparently, it’s a common response. According to the authors, sharing surprises with others can help us savor them even more and relieve us of what they call the “cognitive burden” of surprise—all of that finding and shifting that goes through our heads. Perhaps that’s why when I got home from my trip, I was quick to share the story of my chance encounter with my husband. In fact, if I think about it, I probably always recount surprises to someone. 

Of course, negative surprises are much more challenging than positive ones—receiving a devastating diagnosis, having a car accident, or losing your job will not be a welcome change of pace. But, as Luna and Renninger argue, that doesn’t mean we can avoid them—they are a natural part of life. It is better to find ways to cope with negative surprises than to resist them. Being open to uncertainty, learning how to reframe negative experiences in more positive ways, and nurturing stable relationships are all tools we can use to recover from negative surprises more easily. 

For some people, the desire to avoid all surprise is paramount, often because they fear appearing foolish or ill-prepared. But this leads to stagnation, claim the authors. “So long as we fear vulnerability, we play it safe and stop ourselves from exploring,” they write.

Luna and Renninger suggest that we all need to stop protecting ourselves from the uncertainty or fear of surprise and get out there to engineer more of it. Not only will surprise bring more vitality to our lives, it will also lead to improvements in society.

“By embracing and engineering surprise you can make our whole world richer,” they write. “You can inspire wonder, connection, vulnerability, growth, and creativity.”

I have to say my two favorite stages of surprise are the Freeze and the Share! My forever love, Chris says, “You are always looking for the pearl.” To which I say, “I don’t think you believe in oysters and I know they exist.” You just never know where you’ll find that pearl. Now I think what I am really looking for is the Freeze – things that are so unexpected they stop me in my tracks.

This week’s focus is on vitality. Can you see how surprises could bring energy to your life? How receptive are you to being open to uncertainty? How often have you shared your surprise moments with someone?

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