Finding Our Worth In Ordinary Moments


While it is natural to document the big events in our lives - anniversaries, weddings, graduations - some interesting research shows that our more ordinary experiences are of more worth and interest to us than we imagine.

We tend to underestimate the curiosity and surprise generated by recording our more mundane experiences and reviewing them later.

“However, our studies show that we are often wrong: What is ordinary now actually becomes more extraordinary in the future—and more extraordinary than we might expect,” said Harvard Business School psychological researcher Ting Zhang.

Perceiving the Mundane

In different experiments, the researchers had participants estimate their future interest in ordinary events that they were asked to document, such as a conversation, the details of a social event, a date, or a paragraph written for a class assignment. Months later, participants found their interest and enjoyment in reading what they had recorded surpassed their expectations.

Naturally, we cannot stop to record all our ordinary moments, it would be too disruptive and likely annoying. What the study offers us is a chance to view our moment by moment mundane experiences differently. Perception shifts when you realize events that feel like the “same old thing” today may stir pleasure and interest months or years from now.

Seeing the Story

This phenomenon is not too surprising when you consider how much humans enjoy stories. Viewing other people’s lives through books or movies is something most of us enjoy. We find fascination not only in other's adventures, but also in the details of their everyday existence, whether the story is fact or fiction.

By recording our daily happenings and reviewing them later, we get to peek through the window of our life and view it as a story. As a story, our life is more intriguing than we may have thought.

“People find a lot of joy in rediscovering a music playlist from months ago or an old joke with a neighbor, even though those things did not seem particularly meaningful in the moment,” said Zhang. “The studies highlight the importance of not taking the present for granted and documenting the mundane moments of daily life to give our future selves the joy of rediscovering them.”

The Value of Thoughts and Feelings

Although many of us will accumulate hundreds of images using our smartphone cameras, it seems our interest in past ordinary events has much to do with our thoughts and feelings at the time. The research revealed that people do not remember much detail of everyday events, until their recorded words remind them.

This may be why other people can see us as more interesting than we give ourselves credit for—why we might express to a friend that we feel an utter failure at life, yet they view us as courageous, or inspiring, or loving. Other people witness the unfolding story of our daily lives, while we can only do that in retrospect by jogging our memory with documentation.

Source: Science Daily
Photo credit: Kristina Alexanderson - flickr


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