The WOW Factor

It feels like a bit of an anticlimax… the German exam is over and I did well. In fact, I – along with another woman – topped the class. Ho hum.

Last time, when I unexpectedly did well, I was thrilled! That time, I took the exam after a four month break from class, so scoring 97% seemed like an impossibility, an absurdity – I hardly believed it. This time, with a mundane 90%, I don’t have the same sense of surprise and exhilaration. Last time, I felt the score was undeserved, unexpected, and a complete bolt from the blue. This time, I worked towards it, I knew from the preparatory model test that I was in the range, and when the marks were announced, it felt rather inevitable, even a bit of a let down, to have got just the score I’d aimed for.

Which leads me to an inescapable conclusion that I have often observed – at least in myself – before: those outcomes in life, whether exam results or office appraisals, raises, and promotions, or anything else – those outcomes that you work for and that you earn, deserve, and expect to achieve don’t give anything like the sense of elation, disbelief, and happiness that accompany the unexpected, the undeserved. Earned rewards lack the “wow” factor.

(On a side note, Amit seems to think that my marks are entirely undeserved. I was out of town for three weeks in the middle, he points out. What business do I have topping the class – the other woman didn’t drop a single class! He’s not unduly impressed with my commitment in getting up early in the morning to study either, even though I missed out on tennis to do so. Why not? “Well, you were going to sleep early every night, weren’t you,” he asks, as though it’s a crime. If I had really been hardworking, I’d’ve been up half the night, studying. He’s particularly unimpressed by my strategy of studying two weeks before the exam and then studying less and less as the exam day approaches. That, according to him, is not the sign of someone who’s slogging. Sigh. You just can’t win ‘em all.)

So anyway, as I was saying, what often accompanies the deserved and expected outcome is not even happiness, more a tired sense of responsibility, or perhaps apprehension for whatever greater responsibility or challenge comes next, or, at best, relief.

This is one of the reasons that I always like to leave large tips in small eateries – the extra ten bucks might not matter so much to me, but the unexpected tip might make someone else quite happy. This is also why I adopt the insane practice of giving my cook a raise before she asks for it – it just feels so much nicer that way. Don’t you think?

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