Pause for a moment to remember a time in your life when you were fully engaged. Fully present. You were watching your child being born or you crested a rise on a trail and could suddenly see for miles. You finally mastered the song that you had worked so hard to learn. You finished writing your book. You watched the sun come up over the ocean. An audible gasp may have escaped your lips and all that mattered in the universe was that perfect moment. Everything else faded away and you were simply alive.
That feeling is wonder.
The principle drawback of adulthood is that moments of wonder become increasingly sporadic. Any parent can tell you what wonder looks like, even if they are too exhausted to feel it for themselves, because children are bursting with it. As we get older, the world becomes catalogued and ordered. Our days are filled with fire drills and action plans. There’s no time to stop and wonder at the daily majesty of life. If we’re lucky, we may take one week out of fifty-two to leave our normal lives in order to go find wonder–and even then, our heads are usually swimming with too many other things to truly engage with the feeling.
Here’s a secret: Wonder is not something you find someplace else. Wonder is something you find where you are. Everywhere. It’s not “out there” somewhere. It is within you. Wonder can be about leaving your normal routine to find something new and exciting but it’s also altering your perception just slightly to find wonder even in common items – a cup of coffee, a shower.
Looking at a destructive storm can bring on a sense of wonder. There is even wonder to be found in negative emotions like grief or regret. Life is beautiful, but it’s also dark and tough and twisted sometimes. Wonder teaches us that we need to accept the full spectrum to be fully alive and not live only in the extremes, or worse, numb all our emotions to avoid the difficult ones. Wonder is not present only when you leave work or when you put the kids to bed. Not merely during the weekend or when you’re on vacation. Always. The feeling of wonder is the most critical and yet most neglected essence of being alive. Finding wonder in your life, especially as an adult, takes practice. You have to remember what it’s like to see the world through un-jaded eyes.
If you’ve read this far then I’d bet that you mourn the loss of wonder like I do but there is hope for us. Wonder can drive a person to great things. If you find wonder in your food, you start to appreciate real food more and lose your taste for manufactured nonsense. When you find wonder in time well spent, you spend more of it considering how to spend those minutes you have instead of bemoaning the ones you don’t. Seeing wonder in yourself helps you take better care of your body and manage your emotions for a fuller experience.
It’d be pretty to say that I’m on the other end of that journey and I’ve returned to help guide more people along the path. The truth is, though, that I’m just another wanderer and most of the things I write are questions I’m struggling with myself.
Why a gambit?
A gambit is a risky but calculated move in order to gain an advantage. It originated in chess where a player would sacrifice a piece in order to gain a tactical edge. It’s a name that drew me because it sounds a little jokey (which I am), a little cool (which I certainly am not), but largely because aligning your life to find more wonder is a risky prospect. It’s dangerous. Looking for wonder invites change into your life because when you see things differently, there’s no turning back.
Like in chess, it’s a decision that on the surface may seem foolish and yet with a wide enough lens, taking the whole game (or life) into account, the strategy is sound. There are rules that must be followed. Some may be broken or bent. Some accepted tactics should be completely thrown out. To attack the rules of the game differently is a gambit and that reminds me what wonder is all about.
Here’s another secret: It’s much easier not to try to find wonder. It takes significantly less energy to lose yourself in routine, television, drink or whatever. It’s easier to use your time and energy to complain about how you have no time, no energy and nowhere to find wonder. The thing about free will is that no one can choose for you. No one can give you wonder. You have to invite it in for yourself.
To that end, promise yourself that you are going to take at least one minute out of every day for wonder. During your normal routine, you will pause and really focus on something you normally rush by or really focus on some action you typically zone out while doing. You’re not trying to accomplish anything. You’re signaling to the universe that you’re listening. After a couple of weeks, you’ll start to see your mind do this automatically. I’m a firm believer that making small, incremental changes to your life is the only way to make lasting impact.
It’s a start.
Remember, courage is born of wonder. The courage to create, to lead, to parent, to make changes. To live your life.
See you out there. Thanks for reading.
If you’re new to my writing, the links above will take you to some examples of places where I’ve found wonder when I’ve changed my focus. To keep up with updates on my Wonder Gambit, please follow me here and on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (see links above in the header). I’d love to hear your own strategies for clawing back some wonder into your life.