Have you ever said yes to taking on a new project, having no idea it was going to take way more time and energy than you ever imagined? Have you ever planned a vacation with limited time to research with the hope that it would be worth it? I can check the Yes box for both of these this year! My project was committing whole-heartedly to finishing my first book in 2018. I had no idea the hours upon hours this would take. Then I decided to visit my daughter Kira, who is studying at University of Auckland in New Zealand for the semester. After I booked my flights, many individuals scared me by telling me how long the flight was—fourteen hours of air time and that’s just the portion from California to New Zealand. Yikes! I was also asked, “Do you know it is winter in New Zealand?” Why, why, why was I doing this trip? Visiting my daughter was important but I had so many deadlines and would it be worth it? Yes, yes, and yes again! Air New Zealand was so professional that the long flight wasn’t as bad as I anticipated and winter in Auckland averages 60 degrees. Now that is my type of winter!
If I had to use one word to describe my trip to New Zealand it would be awe! But what exactly is awe? Have you ever seen a full rainbow on top of a sparkling beach, a sunset that looks like an artist just painted it, a whale breach right in front of you? You know that feeling of …wow… this is just unbelievable. That is awe.
Psychologist and pioneering awe researcher Dacher Keltner at the University of California, Berkeley defines awe as “the feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends your understanding of the world.” There is research being done on how finding awe in our lives can enhance our resilience and well-being and so in my upcoming book Career ReCharge: Five Strategies to Boost Resilience and Beat Burnout, I include the power of awe in my well-being chapter.
My awe experiences in New Zealand included seeing volcano craters, palm trees, tropical flowers, full rainbows on beautiful glistening beaches on Waiheke Island and, on a ferry trip to Tiritiri Matangi Island, seeing the smallest penguin in the world. You don’t have to fly to New Zealand or visit some tropical island to have awe experiences though. Awe can happen in your own backyard. Just before I left for New Zealand, for the first time ever, I had a flowering sunflower in my yard. I was awed because I’ve tried for many years to grow sunflowers with no luck. When I returned home from New Zealand, the awe experience continued when we visited Colby Farm in Massachusetts and I had another incredible sunflower awe experience.
Here are three ways to get more awe into your life:
- Get out in nature. Whether it’s a quick walk at lunchtime or a weekend hike, enjoy the incredible wonder of nature. When was the last time you watched a sunrise or sunset or listened to the sound of the wind in the trees or birds chirping?
- Cultivate mindfulness. We often miss awe experiences because of our overly-busy and technologically-dependent lives. It takes being present in the moment to be able to pause and experience awe. Meditation is one way to cultivate mindfulness because taking time to pause and breath helps us make room for noticing the awe around us.
- Be curious and have more fun. Being in situations that spark learning lend themselves to awe experiences. Having fun does too. Assess today if you are working too much and figure out a way to have more fun. Notice the awe in your life when you do this.
Awe is a way of being in which we are able to see incredible beauty within us and around us. It reminds us to embrace the daily magic of life. Don’t wait for your next vacation to find awe.
Let me know how you find awe experiences in your daily life and share with me some of your “awe”-some pictures at firstname.lastname@example.org.