Surprise. A young man surprised at the wonder of the world.



Some people love surprises. The rush that comes with something startling or unexpected can be a welcome and sometimes dramatic alternative to our routine existence.

Others hate them. They might dislike deviating from their carefully crafted schedules. They may feel uncomfortable with anything that alters their perspective or opinions. They may not like the feeling of being startled.

Whether we like surprises depends on what we focus on when we think about surprise. There’s the “surprise party” kind of surprise, which involves both being startled and an unexpected event and people. There’s also the kind of surprise that involves an unexpected realization and the impact of knowledge or information that is significantly different from what we previously thought. Which we focus on makes a big difference to our comfort level.

Keep an Open Mind

Being open-minded and keeping a loose hold on our preconceptions can lead to positive experiences with surprise. In the same way a child is constantly surprised by the world, so too can we be surprised if we keep a similar attitude. An open mind can turn situations that might have led to disagreements or confrontations with a narrow point of view into situations in which we’re pleasantly surprised by new information or an idea that we hadn’t previously thought of. We don’t have to change our minds to be surprised; we can be surprised by new ideas that we are merely considering or even with which we disagree.

Being the Source of Surprises

We can also be the source of surprises for other people. Surprising someone can be a fun way to celebrate a milestone or to show that we care about a person enough to do some planning and make a significant effort. It can be a meaningful expression of affection. And being the recipient of such an expression can be a very pleasant experience indeed. But surprising someone doesn’t have to involve a big surprise party or an expensive trip or present. It can be something small but meaningful. I like to surprise people, and I view it as a win-win. I enjoy figuring out what a person might like or be interested in. The person I’m surprising (hopefully) also is happy about what I planned for the surprise.

Surprise Yourself

It’s also possible to surprise yourself; in fact, it’s important. As we grow as people, we periodically do things that we didn’t realize we could do or change our minds about long-held beliefs. We might surprise ourselves in our ability to overcome a challenge or face a fear. It is important to periodically challenge our limitations and try things we have always felt we couldn’t do. Don’t let your life get so routine that you’re never surprised.

Spend time with people who surprise you. People can surprise you in different ways—with their generosity of time, attention, and encouragement, with their different ways of thinking (challenging you to think differently as well), or with how they are growing as people. We should make sure we are in the company of others who surprise us.

Be curious about the world, and you will constantly be surprised. We can be surprised by things in nature that are amazing. Art and music can impact us in surprising ways. Other cultures and ways of life can be surprising.

Stay open to change, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

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