Awespiration

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– by Jaime Willis
When I woke up this morning, Steve Harvey was on the radio telling me to “Think Big.” Big thinking is a great way to start off your week, so I thank Steve for reminding me.
As I was getting up and preparing for the day, I wondered how I could encourage you to think big as you are setting and achieving your goals. In our goal-setting course (by the way – the next class is just around the corner – Saturday, December 11sign up now!), we talk about creating a “painted picture” of your life three years from now. A great painted picture requires big thinking, but how can you exercise your “big thinking” muscles?
Luckily, there are some researchers that can point us in the right direction.* Dacher Keltner is a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who has been studying awe. In one of his experiments called the 20 Statements Test, he asks participants to complete 20 sentences beginning with “I am…” One group of participants completes the task in front of a full-size replica of a Tyrannosaurus Rex while the other group writes sentences while facing a hallway wall. *Hat tip to David Hochman, who wrote “The Wonder of it All” in the December 2010 issue of Oprah magazine, which introduced me to the study of awe.
The result? The T-Rex group were three times likelier to describe themselves as part of something larger than the hallway group. Keltner states that awe inspires people to think big!
Psychologist Michelle Shiota says that “Awe is a response to things you don’t have a mental template for.” So how can you fit more awe into your life?
1) Be inspired by nature. There is nothing more awe-inspiring that walking through the giant Redwoods in California or seeing the stars on a cloudless Montana night sky. Remember the scene in Contact when Jodie Foster is trying to explain her experience in space to Congress? That was true awe of nature!
Photo Credit: Rolf Hicker.
2) Meditate on acts of great generosity or humanity. I was so awe-struck by the Chilean miner rescue that I was glued to the television and internet for the entire day the miners were finally brought up out of the earth.
Photo Credit: Alex Ibanez/AP via the Christian Science Monitor

3) Try something new. I had the amazing opportunity to zipline through the rainforest in Costa Rica two years ago. The rush of “flying” over the lush treeline was so awe-inspiring, I did the entire zip course twice. Even in our daily life, though, we can find ways to try new things and experience awe. Walk a different way through your neighborhood, really look at the scenery you are passing by in your drive to work, or choose a new lunch spot.
4) Join the crowd. Being a part of a “big” experience is a great way to feel awe and think big. Remember the rush of hearing your favorite song live at your first concert? How about the joy of being part of an Improv Anywhere mission? I recall the wonder of a huge snowball fight in Dupont Circle during last year’s snowpocalypse.
Photo Credit: James Calder

Tell us in the comments below what you are getting your “awespiration” from today.

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