“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control over it.”

-Kahlil Gibran

Imagine this scenario. You’ve just ordered something online. It could be a book or clothing or furniture or new glasses or anything under the sun. Whatever it is, once you order it, you keep checking the status. When the notification of shipment comes, you look up the tracking number four times a day in spite of being aware that it won’t change in a day.

Sound familiar?

Medically, it’s called the endowment effect, a term conceived by professor and Nobel Prize recipient Richard Thaler. In more recent times, the urban dictionary has re-christened it as pre-parcel anxiety because it’s more associated with online purchases than anything else these days.

The endowment effect basically means valuing something we have definitive ownership over more than what’s not ours. When we pay to order something online, in our minds, we own it. But because it’s not delivered yet, we start getting anxious about it’s not in our possession till it becomes tangible.

Also, when we order an item(s) online, we’ve already thought of ways it’ll impact our lives. If you’re buying a new TV, you’ve already started fantasizing about where it’ll be placed and how you’ll enjoy watching shows and movies on there. If you purchased some clothes, you’ll start thinking of places and occasions you’re going to wear them. This increases the psychological entitlement for it, making you all the more eager to receive it.

According to a study conducted UPS, 96 percent of customers who purchase things online track their purchases more than once a day, every day until they’re delivered.

Now comes the million dollar question: Is there anything wrong with that? After all, we’re only anticipating what’s rightfully ours now, right? We found something we liked, paid our hard-earned money for it and now look forward to it.

In theory, no. We’re human beings who are just excited for something we know is coming. It’s a natural and normal emotion.

When it becomes a problem is when the anticipation turns into anxiety and significantly reduces the joy of actually receiving the product. In other words, you overhyped the anticipation so much that after your purchase is actually delivered, you feel underwhelmed. You have your purchase(s). Sure, you can enjoy it and bask in all its glory. But that intense attention you gave it when it was en route might never be there again.

And let’s face it; lost packages, weather delays, missing the opportunity to sign for it, only add to the hurdles of the whole process.

So what’s the takeaway? Value the journey as much as the destination.
Even after receiving your order, don’t ever forget that period of pre-parcel anxiety that you went through. One thing I do after my deliveries is take a screenshot of the tracking journey and save it. Doing so serves as a reminder never to devalue the product even after some time. If I appreciate the journey, I won’t take it for granted even if I get tired of it or feel underwhelmed in the long-term.

And that principal can be applied to anything in life. If you have your heart set on a promotion and you finally get it, never forget the time and effort you put in to get there. If you graduate from school, never forget those times of burning the midnight oil when studying for an exam.

The endowment effect is natural and should not be a cause for concern. Just learn to value even it after it’s over.

Have you ever had the endowment effect? How did you handle it during and more importantly, after it? Do you agree that the journey for any endeavor should never be forgotten even after reaching your destination? Why or why not? Share your thoughts and experiences by commenting below on our secure servers.

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Hi, I'm Neel! I'm a writer (fiction and poetry), a journalist and currently working in the advertising business. I'm also a mental health advocate, having been diagnosed with clinical depression a few years ago.
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