In 2015, a new book hit the market that explored something truly surprising — surprise itself. Surprise: Embrace the Unpredictable and Engineer the Unexpected by Tania Luna and Leeann Renninger explores what surprise is, why it’s important to have surprise in our lives, and how creating surprise can improve our experience in life.
That book outlines four distinct stages of the experience of surprise:
Freeze—when we are stopped in our tracks because of the unexpected
Find—when we get hooked into trying to understand what’s going on/how this happened
Shift—when we begin to shift our perspectives, based on conflicting findings
Share—when we feel the pull to share our surprises with others
That particular experience – where we share the cognitive load of surprise by sharing it with others – is a part of the emotional experience that seems to make surprise something that happens only between people, instead of something you can cause in yourself.
But – I’d argue that surprising yourself is not only possible, but extremely necessary.
As author Annie Traurig writes in her blog, quote:
Every day, in both trivial and significant ways, we are making contact with our conceptions of ourselves as we move through the world. We have to rely on past experience to inform what is and is not for us, and what we do and do not enjoy. Knowledge born out of past experience is what enables us to efficiently make it through the day. But occasionally, it is not only healthy but wonderful to check in with ourselves, asking ourselves if what we’ve held to be true for a long time still is, determining once again what calls to us, and challenging our beliefs about our potential, our preferences, and our possibility.
Surprise comes when our expectations are not met, or are broken. While we may know our own minds, that doesn’t mean that we have perfect knowledge of ourselves — so when you surprise yourself, you’re giving yourself the gift of insight.