Anticipatory Charm

I listened to a podcast the other day and heard a term that got me thinking.

Anticipatory charm.

It was used in a conversation about the difference between wanting to do something and enjoying it (apparently inspired by the book "Molecule of More" by Daniel Z. Lieberman & Michael E. Long - I haven't read the book so I can't say whether it's any good...)

Here's what the co-host said:

"The things that I want to do often don't have that same anticipatory charm" (as say, scrolling Twitter).

What he was calling out is that our behaviors are often not the things we want to be doing. They are the things that have the most anticipatory charm.

Maybe you wish you could get up early to read or go for a run - but you don't do it.

Maybe you look forward to that triple bacon cheeseburger, chili cheese fries, and a milkshake, only to regret it an hour later.

Maybe you find yourself impulse buying because the anticipation of owning the thing is overwhelmingly attractive, even though as soon as you own it the pleasure is largely gone.

The anticipation is over.
The charm has faded.

So you buy something else!

And the cycle continues...

Or maybe you're like me and the things that bring the most pleasure you don't look forward to at all!

I enjoy rich conversations with friends over a meal, a beer, or a cup of coffee - but I rarely look forward to them.

I love to present and speak in front of people but leading up to it, I completely dread it... so I often avoid it.

I've managed to ingrain a lot of activity into my life that lacks anticipatory charm, from regularly working out, to eating salads for lunch, to doing the countless other mundane things that need to be done to be a productive adult member of society.

I've done it despite the lack of anticipatory charm.

I've done it through deliberate habit formation to some degree, and I'm sure you've done the same.

Still, I wonder if there's a way to rewire our brains to look forward to the wholesome, healthy things that we know we'll truly enjoy.

Is there a way to develop anticipatory charm for those activities we want to be doing?

Mark Armstrong

Mark Armstrong

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