“Let’s say you have a work presentation that you’re nervous about,” she says. “If you also have a new piece of clothing that you can’t wait to wear, you’ll look forward to it even more.”
Focus on the experience.
Some studies have also suggested that we derive more happiness from predicting experiential purchases than from material possessions. Prediction enhancement is a key trading trick for Lydia Fenet, a charity auctioneer who has raised more than half a billion dollars in his career.
For example, if it’s dinner with a celebrity, she’ll paint a picture of all the ways that dinner could go. Maybe you and the celebrity become friends. Maybe they become godparents to your child. Maybe the two of you will spend the next few decades doing cool celebrity things together, like taking selfies in bright conditions on a private jet.
“And just as I was about to lower the hammer and sell a lot, I would turn to the audience and say, ‘So they’re going to have dinner with their newest best friend, George Clooney, at Gramercy Tavern, and you’ I’ll be sitting at home eating pizza,” Fenet said.
By skipping dinner with Mr. Clooney, you can still maximize expectations before an experience, such as a date. Pick an activity that’s meaningful to you or a place you’d recommend to the other person, says Erika Kaplan, vice president of memberships for matchmaking service The Three Days Rule. “Then you are expecting two things,” she explained. “Date itself, but also introduce the other person to your world and see how they react.”
Remember that anxiety and anticipation can coexist.
The flip side of positive prediction is predictive anxiety – and the catch, Dr. Waugh says, is that they often happen together. “Anxiety and excitement are sisters emotions,” he said. “Think about a time when you got married or you were having your first child. It’s a mess of both.”
But it’s only detrimental “when you only focus on the anxiety part and neglect the excitement part,” he added. It’s important to acknowledge the fun, positive side of what you’re doing along with feelings of anxiety. Research to show that that “when you re-evaluate anxious things as enjoyable, it actually makes you feel better about them,” says Dr. Waugh.