The elephant effect: the tenth one is not a dime less spectacular than the first one

In 2010 my future husband and myself were working on a project in South Africa. After the project was completed we seized the moment and travelled along the Garden Route from Cape Town to Port Elisabeth. Our final eastward destination was the Ado Elephant park – an amazing safari place, where one can see wildlife in all its beauty. As the name has it, there are a lot of elephants there.

I recall our first photo of an elephant — that greyish thing somewhere far-far away, almost at the horizon, half covered by the bushes. A real wild elephant! The excitement was tremendous! Even though an elephant was barely seen and even though the photo was somewhat unfocused. We kept on driving through the park for another 10 minutes without spotting a single living creature and then it was: much closer, actually pretty distinguishable in its magnificent calmness. This time photos were clear, Instagram-ready (if only back then there would have been Instagram!).

We moved on. Some sort of a deer (never distinguish them) passed by, a flock of birds, never seen before, flew over… Another elephant! This time right next to us. Ain’t that cool? But “let’s see if we can spot something else!” I told my husband. He took a right turn at the crossroads and had to break because an elephant family was actually crossing the road!!!… Then we saw another elephant. And another. And one more. Two more there…

As you could imagine, that first elephant far-far away caused so much more excitement than any other; except perhaps that elephant family crossing the road in front of us. It all has happened in a couple of hours and in the hindsight made me think about how fast we get accustomed to exciting things.

I don’t remember who first told that story about Internet on planes. When for the first time an access to Internet during flights got possible and it was announced, people were cheering, happy and grateful. However, a short while after, when Internet started having some sort of connection problems, people actually got angry and demanding. The point is – a moment ago they didn’t have it at all and a moment later gratitude vanished and entitlement took over. They started feeling entitled to having Internet and ripped off when they no longer had it. Actually a bit like some people are treating free help offered to them: first they are grateful, but shortly after feel entitled until they become truly angry if they are refused it.

This is an interesting psychological phenomenon to be aware of. Moreover, once aware it is a very good idea to humble-down and switch on your gratitude button… At all times.

Our tenth elephant was not a dime less spectacular than the first one. It was a tremendous experience to be able to see them in their wild habitat.

However, most importantly reflecting on our experience I understood how much more enriching a life can be if you never lose excitement and never cease to be grateful.


*the elephant effect is not any official psychological term, it’s just my association with the issue, as it were elephants in the Ado park who made me reflect on it.


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