Have you ever had a really rough moment with your child, and then someone else - maybe an older person - will tell you how absolutely delicious and delightful your child is? And then you respond with a, “Yeah, you may think so but…”
Have you ever had a friend who is admiring your house, and you can’t help but show them the terrible bathroom, or the crumbling ceiling or….
Here’s the thing. If we’re a collection of our thoughts, and we choose to find the negative, the difficulty in a situation instead of the terrific, whether it’s out of modesty or humility or just plain old pessimism, we do ourselves a disservice.
We are what we think about. So if you want to be the best and happiest gosh darn version of yourself, it behooves you to elevate your thoughts.
Here’s how. There’s a wonderful practice that I’ve adopted myself, my children, and my coaching clients to great effect. It’s the practice of cultivating awe.
It’s really easy, and it has the power to move a practitioner to tears. It can go as deeply and as powerfully as you want it to, and whatever you do, it will make you feel good.
Here’s how to do it: Get yourself in a space that has something to observe (not a padded room). A comfortable room with some music, a nature hike, a walk around your neighborhood.
First, look for something pleasing. A flower. The color of the sky. A bird chirping. And stay with that for a bit. Really think about it. Look at that flower – look at the colors. Think about the person who planted it, and takes care of it, just because. Or maybe that plant is so hearty it thrives on its own.
Pretty soon, you’ll find yourself running an awe dialog, like this:
“Wow. That’s amazing. Plants just grow. I’ve seen tomato plants growing up in the sidewalk in front of Italian restaurants. Just a seed that took and now… fruit.”
“Pretty awesome isn’t it? Life is pretty amazing. Just out there, trying to stay alive. Even that little tomato plant.”
And then, maybe you’ll hear a dog barking. Let’s try this again…
“There’s a barking dog. We live with dogs. Humans, literally, live with dogs. That’s pretty wild. We don’t live with elephants or lions. But we invite dogs in, and they take care of us and we take care of them. Dogs can learn tricks. Dogs can help the blind. That’s pretty incredible. Dogs help blind people navigate NYC. Wow. That’s awesome.”
All you do is let your mind take you to a place of enthusiastic contemplation. Think about life, beauty, sound. Free yourself to enjoy the awesome people, places, life, art and music that surround you every minute of every day.
And that child who the person was admiring? You know that child, you used to watch them when they slept Because the fact that they were a child, and your child, and so beautiful and peaceful was a delightful miracle. You were in awe of your child naturally, because that’s part of what parent-child bonding is all about.
And while this may sound a little pollyanna, the power of positive thinking is based in science.
”Being in the presence of vast things calls forth a more modest, less narcissistic self, which enables greater kindness toward others,” according to researcher Dacher Keltner, Ph.D, the founding director of the Greater Good Science Center and a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.
By cultivating awe, you are actively connecting to something larger than yourself, which can be humbling and fill you with appreciation. It will have a profound affect on how you feel. You can find out more about Allison and her work at www.allisontask.com.