Highly anticipated experiences are often underwhelming
Going to the moon is the coolest thing humans have ever done.
You’d think it would be an overwhelming experience. But as the spacecraft hovered over the moon, Michael Collins turned to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin and said:
It’s amazing how quickly you adapt. It doesn’t seem weird at all to me to look out there and see the moon going by, you know?
Three months later, after Al Bean walked on the moon during Apollo 12, he turned to astronaut Pete Conrad and said “It’s kind of like the song: Is that all there is?” Conrad was relieved, because he secretly felt the same, describing his moonwalk as spectacular but not momentous.
Most mental upside comes from the thrill of anticipation – actual experiences tend to fall flat, and your mind quickly moves on to anticipating the next event. That’s how dopamine works.
Expectations also shift and goalposts move faster than you can imagine. Collins once said of Aldrin: “He resents not being first on the moon more than he appreciates being second.”
[…] Jim Carrey once said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”
[…] You think you know how it’ll feel. Then you experience it firsthand and you realize, Ah, OK. It’s more complicated than you thought.