17 April 2023
"It’s not what you look at that matters. It’s what you see."
Henry David Thoreau
I've just returned from a road trip from Brisbane to Sydney and back. At approximately a thousand kilometres in each direction with mainly highway driving, we decided to stop along the way, visit beaches and explore the coastline.
Although I have flown over this coastline countless times and visited a few beachside towns, the experience of taking a slow journey, pausing to admire the sunrises and sunsets, and absorbing all the beauty and wonder was truly remarkable.
Awe and wonder are emotions that can be triggered by encountering something vast, beautiful, or inspiring. Research has shown that experiencing awe and wonder can have a positive impact on our mental and physical well-being. The feeling of being in awe can be described as a sense of wonder and amazement that is often accompanied by feelings of humility and connectedness to something greater than oneself.
Studies have also found that people who frequently experience awe and wonder are more likely to have higher levels of life satisfaction, feel more connected to others, reduce stress levels and improve overall health.
Taking the time to appreciate the beauty of nature can be powerful and research has shown that exposure to natural environments, such as forests or oceans, can increase feelings of awe and wonder, and lead to improved well-being.
Jeffrey Davis has conducted research on the benefits of cultivating wonder in the creative process, and he has written about the ways in which wonder can help us tap into our creativity and bring new ideas to life. In his book, Tracking Wonder: Reclaiming a Life of Meaning and Possibility in a World Obsessed with Productivity, Davis explores the concept of "wonder thinking" and offers practical strategies for incorporating wonder into our daily lives.
According to Davis, wonder thinking involves "cultivating a state of openness, curiosity, and receptivity to the world around us." This mindset can help us break out of our habitual ways of thinking and approach problems and challenges in new and innovative ways.
In his research, Davis has found that cultivating wonder can have a range of benefits, including increased creativity, improved problem-solving skills, and greater resilience in the face of challenges. He has also found that incorporating wonder into our daily lives can help us experience more joy and meaning in our work and personal lives.
How to incorporate awe and wonder into daily life
Incorporating awe and wonder into your daily life doesn't have to be complicated. By taking small steps to appreciate the beauty around you, you can experience a greater sense of awe and wonder in your everyday experiences.
1. Spend time in nature
Go for a wonder walk in a park at lunch time, hike in a forest, or simply sit by a river or lake. Take in the beauty around you and let yourself be amazed by the natural world.
2. Try something new
Step out of your comfort zone and try something you've never done before. Whether it's trying a new food or taking up a new hobby, experiencing new things can be a source of awe and wonder.
3. Practice mindfulness
Pay attention to the present moment and try to fully engage with your surroundings. Focus on the small details of your environment, like the colours and textures around you.
4. Seek out art and culture
Visit a museum, attend a concert, or explore a new neighbourhood in your city. Art and culture can be a source of inspiration and wonder.
5. Connect with others
Spend time with people be it colleagues, friends or loved ones and make an effort to truly connect with them. Share stories, laugh together, and enjoy each other's company.
Read more about wonder from a previous blog on how to bring wonder into your daily life.
How leaders can cultivate awe and wonder in teams
Leaders can play a key role to foster a sense of wonder and inspire creativity.
1. Encourage exploration
Encourage team members to explore new ideas and ways of thinking. This can involve providing opportunities for learning, experimentation, and collaboration.
2. Create a sense of purpose
Help team members connect their work to a larger purpose or mission. This can involve providing clarity around organisational goals and values, and helping team members see how their contributions fit into the bigger picture.
3. Celebrate successes
Celebrate team successes and milestones. This can involve acknowledging individual achievements, as well as team achievements, and creating a sense of pride and accomplishment.
4. Encourage curiosity
Encourage team members to ask questions and explore new possibilities. This can involve creating a safe and supportive environment where individuals feel comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions.
5. Provide inspiration
Provide team members with inspiration and resources that can help them tap into their creativity and sense of wonder. This can involve sharing stories of successful innovators, providing access to thought-provoking books or podcasts, or offering opportunities for team members to attend conferences or events.
6. Foster a culture of experimentation
Encourage team members to experiment with new approaches and ideas. This can involve creating a culture of learning and growth, where individuals feel supported in taking risks and trying new things.
By incorporating these strategies into their leadership approach, leaders can help their teams cultivate a sense of wonder and creativity, which can lead to greater innovation and engagement.
"We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open."
Shiota, M. N., Keltner, D., & Mossman, A. (2007). The nature of awe: Elicitors, appraisals, and effects on self-concept. Cognition and Emotion, 21(5), 944-963.
Rudd, M., Vohs, K. D., & Aaker, J. (2012). Awe expands people's perception of time, alters decision making, and enhances well-being. Psychological Science, 23(10), 1130-1136.
van Elk, M., Karinen, A., Specker, E., Stamkou, E., & Baas, M. (2019). The phenomenology of awe: Awe promotes a desire for social connection. Cognition and Emotion, 33(8), 1542-1552.
Piff, P. K., Dietze, P., Feinberg, M., Stancato, D. M., & Keltner, D. (2015). Awe, the small self, and prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108(6), 883-899.