How to See Through the False Lure of “Epic” Experiences

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We live in an era of highlighters on social media. It’s easy to feel like everyone’s having fun — aka “climaxing” — when you’re stuck in the same old routine.

You may challenge your seemingly mundane life with thoughts such as:

  • “Why do I feel like I’m missing out on everything exciting? »
  • “Am I going to keep reliving the same boring day forever?”
  • “Am I missing a special quality that successful people have?”

What we may be looking for is something that psychologist Gayle Privette calls a “peak experience” in her research—transcendent moments of pure joy that share three key characteristics:

  1. Fulfillment
  2. Meaning or significance
  3. spiritual significance

Here are some examples of peak experiences:

  • Unique exotic vacations
  • Jump out of a plane
  • Meet a beloved celebrity

Interestingly, research shows that not only are peak experiences extremely rare, but they can also make life after them seemingly anti-climactic. Here’s what psychologists say about the unintended costs of peak experiences:

People are looking for extraordinary experiences, whether it’s drinking rare wines or jumping out of a plane. But are such experiences worth having? We found that participants deeply valued having experiences that were superior to those of their peers, but that having had such experiences marred their later social interactions and ultimately left them feeling worse than they did. would have felt if they had had an ordinary experience instead.

Although you can’t drink champagne on a private jet every day – and although research suggests it might not even be psychologically beneficial – you can celebrate the little things in life by focusing on the bigger things. important parts of your normal days. Here are three ways to carve out more pockets within the confines of your usual routine.

1. Seek fulfillment.

When it comes to fulfillment, trying to replicate the lives of others is a no-start. Indeed, according to research, what one finds fulfilling is a matter of personal values ​​and goals.

If you’re feeling dissatisfied (or under-satisfied), chances are your current life doesn’t accurately reflect what you find interesting. For example, if what you really value in life is spending time with your family, no solo trip will bring you the fulfillment you seek.

Here are some questions to help you determine your thriving factors.

  1. Which of the roles you play in life brings you the most satisfaction? For some, it may be being a parent. For others, it might be being a CEO. Either way, making changes to your life so you can devote more time to your role of choice can boost your fulfillment.
  2. What parts of your current life are you most grateful for? Gratitude is an effective litmus test for fulfillment. Not only does it help you identify what matters to you, but it also helps you thrive in areas of your life that you might be neglecting.

2. Look for meaning.

The desire for peak experience can lead a person to say no to a host of seemingly ordinary or unimportant experiences, such as helping and being helpful to others. It seems counter-intuitive to do anything for someone else since our quest for a cutting-edge experience is only for us.

Research, however, suggests otherwise. There are many experiences from which human beings derive immense meaning that do not directly benefit them – parenting, philanthropy, volunteering, donating blood, helping a friend move house, etc. These are all experiences that may cost you personally but ultimately bring you a sense of purpose.

So the next time you feel like your life is ordinary and disappointing, instead of focusing on making your day better, try making someone else’s day better. Some of the happiest people are those who dedicate their lives to making the lives of others and the world a better place.

3. Seek spirituality.

One of the reasons life can seem unsavory before and after a “peak experience” is that there is no limit to human desire. Once we’ve experienced something extraordinarily exciting and rewarding, it becomes our new normal.

The impermanence of “peak experience” is its fatal flaw. Research shows that one of the antidotes to the dopamine spike of a peak experience is to cultivate a sense of lasting happiness in your life through spirituality.

Here are two ways to begin his spiritual journey.

  1. Set up a mediation practice. This is one of the main ways to look inward and not outward for happiness and positivity. The many benefits of meditation include increasing genuine happiness and reducing pleasure-seeking behaviors. Whether it’s mindfulness, loving kindness, or just chanting “Om,” incorporating a meditation practice into your daily routine can have immense benefits.
  2. Consider psychedelics. Psychedelics like psilocybin and ayahuasca can be powerful initiators on a spiritual journey. If you are careful and intentional about your psychedelic experience (eg, consulting a medical professional), it can turn out to be one of the most meaningful, spiritual, and fulfilling experiences of your life.


Peak experiences make for interesting stories, but living deliberately and curiously makes for an interesting life. Welcoming all that life has to offer with open arms, and an open heart can benefit you far more than any peak experience.

To find a therapist near you, visit Psychology Today’s Directory of Therapies.

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