I LOVE SUMMER! It’s been a fun and fabulous couple of days – the weather couldn’t have been too much better and Jon and I had time over the weekend to cross off a few of the Summer Bucket List items! We both have pretty full agendas with some impending travel over the next couple months and since planning is my favorite sport, we had spent some time a few weeks ago to map out tentative dates, book events, buy tickets, etc. for the fun things we wanted to do. I’ve learned that for me at least, it’s important to schedule in time not only for the serious and work related things, but also for recreation and relaxation. If I don’t, a lot of times it just won’t happen. Things get busy and I feel as though I can’t or shouldn’t take time away, the tickets are no longer available, everything is fully booked on the day we want to go, or we just forget what we had wanted to do and essentially waste valuable leisure time. Plus, when we plan things in advance we derive the benefits of anticipatory savoring. Having something to look forward to makes us can make us feel happier in the beforehand, experience the actual event more richly, and even contributes to more intense positive feelings after the fact. However, I must confess I’ve observed a very irritating trend for many years now: although I sincerely think that I will enjoy something very much when it’s originally planned, I often feel less than enthusiastic when the day actually arrives. And so I was especially intrigued when I recently read author Laura Vanderkam’s personal mantra “plan it in, do it anyway.”
Now I had read about some of the psychological errors that we make in our affective forecasting when I read Daniel Gilbert’s Stumbling on Happiness as to why this happens to us all. Affective forecasting is our predictions about our emotional state in the future. His research shows that to a large (and highly predictable) extent we make systematic errors about the emotions that we will experience in a future scenario or situation as well as the intensity of that emotion and its duration. We can usually, but not always accurately predict the valence at a high level, that is whether or not an event is likely to be positive or negative, but we are less effective and accurate when it comes to more specific emotions, just how deeply we will experience them and for how long. For this reason, a lot of things that we chase after in the pursuit of happiness, don’t actually make us that happy in the end or the tragedies that we thought we could never survive are somehow endured. And it’s also a big contributing factor to the reason why I experience this change of heart many times when the day or time of a “fun event” arrives. Many timesthere are other more “responsible” things I should be doing or I am just a bit worn out from the day prior, or maybe I just don’t feel like putting in the effort to get ready and get to wherever it is I am going. And this where I need to remind myself to plan it in, do it anyway.
Although I found Gilbert’s description of affective forecasting fascinating and enlightening, perhaps more practical or helpful to me was following description of the scenario, as outlined by Vanderkam. She says that “as we think about time, it’s important to remember that the ‘self’ is really three selves: the anticipating self (who looks forward to things on the calendar), the experiencing self (who is here in the present), and the remembering self (who thinks back on the past). Philosopher Robert Grudin once wrote that we ‘pamper the present like a spoiled child….’ The anticipating self thought it would be fun to go to the art museum on Friday night, when there’s live music and a bar, and the remembering self will look back fondly on the experience, but the experiencing self just got home from work. She is the one who has to brave the rain and the Friday night traffic. So she throws a tantrum, and we wind up indulging her whim to spend hours scrolling through Facebook posts from people we didn’t like in high school anyway. The way to combat her tyrannies? Plan it in, do it anyway.”
Interestingly, although I can think of many instances when I experienced the meh feeling about actually executing a fun plan in the moment, I really can’t think of a single time when I forced myself to do it anyway and then later regretted it. Sure, I’ve had times when I didn’t in the end go through with the event, allowing this experiencing self to call the shots due to one excuse or another. But when I have stuck with the commitment, I think it usually ends up being just as fun as it had seemed like it would be as th plan was being hatched. Quite often these type of things involve an element of novelty or connection with other people, both of which contribute to a meaningful experience which can be energizing and rewarding all on its own. So – plan it in, do it anyway!
The opportunity to connect with friends and our community over the weekend, having my seafood dinner date night in Kinsale, making extra time for puppy walks and playtime in the park, and going to see Jack Johnson “Live at the Marquee,” made for a pretty fabulous weekend in the moment and some good memories to savor throughout the coming week. I love my routine more than almost anyone I know, but as Laura Vanderkam says, “when we don’t do anything unusual, we tend not to form concrete memories, which makes us feel like time is passing quickly.” We can slow it down by penciling in a few fun or different things here and there to keep it spicy. And then, even if you feel less than inspired when that date arrives, maybe try to push yourself anyway. If you have a Summer Bucket List or resolutions and goals still open for the year, my encouragement: plan it in, do it anyway.
Having been on a roll with the #summergoals myself lately, I decided to cross another one off the list with my first attempt at a cool Whole30 Green Gazpacho – perfect for all my lunches out in the sun this week. Super simple, balanced in taste and chock full of fresh summer veggies!
Serves: 4 each
- Celery Sticks 2 each
- English Cucumber 1 each
- Jalapeno 1 each
- Avocado 1 each
- Coconut Cream (you can use the thick/solid part of full fat coconut milk as well) .25 cup (74 g)
- Water 2 cup (500 ml)
- Cilantro/Coriander, loosely packed .25 cup (15 g)
- Parsley, loosely packed .25 cup (15 g)
- Juice of 1 Lime
- Sea Salt 1 TSP
- Garlic Cloves, Minced 2 each
- Garnish : Chili Infused Olive Oil, Pumpkin Seeds and Cilantro/Coriander
- Add all the ingredients to a high speed blender (except the garnish!) and blend until smooth or to desired chunkiness.
- Refrigerate for an hour (as needed) or until cool and then pour into bowl, topping with a drizzle of the chili infused olive oil, pumpkin seeds and cilantro/coriander as desired.