Create experiences that leave you in awe, for those will be the highlights of your life.-Ryan Blair
Awe and wonder, two words often used interchangeably, are integral to the human experience. These experiences are the places we go, says Brené Brown in Atlas of the Heart, when “it’s beyond us,” when something is vast and expansive yet offers a sense of connectedness.
Though wonder and awe are similar, they cultivate ever so slightly different emotions.
Wonder is defined as “the rapt attention and deep emotion caused by something extraordinary.”
Awe is “the feeling we get in the presence of something vast that challenges our understanding of the world.”
Researchers Ulrich Weger and Johannes Wagemann characterize these two emotions in a slightly different way. “Wonder inspires the wish to understand. Awe inspires the desire to let shine, to acknowledge and unite.”
Awe causes us to observe, to allow whatever has us awestruck to take center stage.
Wonder ignites a desire to understand, to dive in, and learn more. It sparks curiosity, exploration, learning, growth, and may even give way to an adventurous spirit.
Awe inspires humility and sacrifice, helping us fully embrace our humanity. It enables us to see the unique worth and value of others and encourages cooperation, collaboration, and appreciation.
Often, we feel waves of wonder and awe when immersed in nature, enthralled by an astounding work of art or incredible idea, or as a spiritual response.
These “take your breath away” moments surround us, especially when we are fully present. It is then we can marvel at the reflective drop of rain on an autumnal leaf, be astonished by the perfect, tiny fingers of a newborn baby, and be amazed that dogs and cats choose to be our companions.
As children, these two emotions are heightened, maybe because so much of the world seems enormous and vast and is beyond our comprehension. A child is enthralled by an ant carrying a leaf one hundred times its size or may flop on their back, staring into the sky to watch clouds twirl, dance, and morph into different shapes.
Both of these powerful emotions often rouse feelings of gratitude. When we are surrounded by the sublime, appreciation bubbles to the surface. Gratitude is a natural response when walking down a peaceful wooded path illuminated by dappled sun, hearing the laughter of playing children, watching the riotous colors of a sunset, or sitting on a beach contemplating how many grains of sand exist on our planet.
When was the last time you felt blanketed in awe and inspired by wonder?
Take time to stop and immerse yourself in these unreal, inspiring, and phenomenal moments. You’ll be very glad you did.