The Power of Surprise

database-clipart-librarianIf you are a reader like me, it can be challenging to find the right book to read. Not to mention the decision to pick between a fiction or non fiction book. Then add in career and self development books. It can leave you in the aisle of a book store like this…


Thankfully I have a network of family, friends and colleagues that are readers and they assist me (along with Oprah & Reese Witherspoon) with my book choices.

Earlier this year I attended a two day work retreat and everyone was assigned a book, The Power of Moments. When I received it I was excited because I was almost finished reading Stephen King’s IT, and anything that could take my mind off Pennywise was perfect.

By glancing at the title, The Power of Moments, and the tag line, Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, it made me think of two things that were going to appear in this book.

  1. This book is going to tell me to live life on the edge
  2. And it is going to tell me to slow down

I was right. Both of those topics were covered in the book. But what hit home was the few pages on Breaking the Script.

Section 3 within Break the Script starts with a study on the most important events that are likely to take place in life. And the most comment events (in order) are below:

  1. Having children
  2. Marriage
  3. Begin school
  4. College
  5. Fall in love
  6. Other’s death
  7. Retirement
  8. Leave home
  9. Parents’ death
  10. First job

8 of the events could happen before the age of 35. Some could happen sooner. The point is why does the majority of our memories happen in our early years? Where are the moments that happen after 35, 40, 60, 75? Why does no one recognize or highlight those points of time?

The book goes along to talk about a phenomenon called the “reminiscence bump”. Which means that we remember our youth so well because it was a time for first in our lives – first love, first job, first day of college, first trip with friends. If you think about dating, people tend to tell stories about their early dating days versus spending time talking about the present day. Think about it. Have you ever started a story with “Remember when we used to….”?

What I read next made me want to shut the book, because after 90 pages I felt as if the book was complete. I received what I needed.

The first time you see something you are examining it carefully. Your memory is taking notes, but with each repetition of the image, you devote less and less energy to inspecting it. And over time its just that same image again and again. But when something new pops up, it sparks the “density” in your memory and your memory starts to take notes again because this is something new, unfamiliar. Surprise stretches time.

Now before everyone starts to think about finding something “new” lets take a closer look at what this does not mean:

  • Don’t quit your job
  • Leave/Divorce your spouse
  • Move to a new city
  • And for women, chop your hair off

For some the above could and should happen, but for others this excerpt talks about how we tend to fall into a routine as life progresses and things become less novel.

You are…

reading the same type of books or watching the same type of shows and movies.

eating at the same restaurants.

vacationing to similar places/enviroments.

sticking to the same workout routine.

taking on similar projects at work.

searching for the same type of person when dating.

Granted the above might bring joy and excitement into your life, but for how long is that one memory going to last and what meaning is it going to have over time. Try adding an element of spice to your life. The book said this – One tip to live a longer life: Scare the hell out of yourself, regularly.

The power of surprise is about learning to recognize your own script and figuring out how to break it. When we break the script it helps our minds create more vibrant memories. The authors of the book Surprise say “We feel most comfortable when things are certain, but we feel most alive when they are not.”

Here are some easy ideas to help you create surprise in your life starting today.

Find a new hobby 

When life shifts, like the end of a relationship or a move to a new city, the advice most give is to find a new hobby. What about when life doesn’t shift? Does anyone ever mention finding a new hobby? Probably not. Hobbies are not just to get you out of a rut or to help with passing time, it can help enhance your current experiences.

When I started my new hobby (this blog) it brought a sense of aliveness to me each time I brainstormed and crafted a new post. The rush of watching people like, comment and share my words. It created sparks in my already vivid life. It created new memories for me.

Drive a different path

Do you always take the same route to work? School? Church? Try switching up your normal routes. Some locations will require you to travel the same path every day, but others have multiple ways to get to the same destination.

What about trying to navigate somewhere without trusty Google or Apple Maps. Unless you are new to a neighborhood or have zero sense of direction, you should be able to find your way home or to a landmark you recognize. I tend to do this frequently and I always stumble on something I would have not found.

Breaking your driving script could help you find your new favorite coffee shop, a new park to workout or walk the dog, or your new favorite brick wall mural for an awesome Instagram backdrop. This new routine could spark your work day or evening at home. Something as simple as scenery can help increase your senses and energy to fuel your day.

Have lunch 

This seems like an easy task, right? Well the challenge here is to have lunch differently. How often do you meet your best friend or partner for lunch during the work week? If you are a parent, what about going to your kids day care or school to have lunch with them? These shifts in our daily routine will spark new and exciting memories outside of your normal trip to the office kitchen and then back to your desk to eat in front of your computer.

Have you ever tried walking somewhere for lunch? Maybe you are craving old faithful for lunch. Go ahead, but this time walk there instead of driving. Now you have shifted out of your normal lunch routine.

No TV evenings 

This one could be hard for some, but it helps with creating other moments. A few days a month I like to come home from work and not turn on the TV. This is the time for me to really dive into my partners day at work and what is going on in his social life. I also get to catch up on reading, blogging or whatever home projects are needed.

These are the days I might spend an extra 15-20 minutes in the gym. Maybe I meet a friend for drinks after work, try a new neighborhood restaurant or maybe just sit on the couch with my favorite playlist and a glass of wine.

It’s not about limiting your screen time, it is about making yourself do something different during the week, which is really where most of our routines lie. That show is going to be there. And let’s be honest, who watches live TV anymore?

Follow something different on social media 

This one is probably my favorite, because it is something you can do right now. For those who are social media users, I urge you to follow a page that is very different from your normal follow. Whether it is a musician from a genre you don’t listen to, a restaurant whose cuisine you have never tried or a maybe painter. Think of something different to add an element of spark when you are scrolling and liking.

I started following @BlackJaguarWhiteTiger on Instagram and it began to add joy to my social media time because I was now learning about animals in their natural habitats. I would get lost watching baby animals during feeding time or 300 pound tigers playfully playing with their owners. It spiced up my life, even if it was for a few seconds.

By now your wheels inside your head should be turning. Maybe you are thinking of other ways to add elements of surprise in your daily routine. Our best lives shouldn’t end after we have children, get married or land our first job. Life continues and so should our memories.

Again, I challenge you to break your own script. Start small. It will have a big impact.