I was a fifth grader the first time I flew on a commercial flight. I remember being amazed that I could get all the soft drinks I wanted for free. I remember the wonder of looking out at the clouds and the topography far below. I remember watching us land. The entire thing was a great adventure and I was full of wonder.
In college, as I flew once in awhile, I always got a window seat – I wanted to be able to watch the ground pass below me. The wonderment of it all – the patterns and beauty of looking out the window was overwhelming. Yes, I would sometimes read or do something else, but much of the flight I would sit… and stare… and be in wonder of it all.
Soon after I started working, I found myself flying a bit more, and it became clear that during my business life that I would fly. I mentioned once to my Mom, who loves to fly, that I’d never lose that great feeling that an airplane flight brings – and that I would always get window seats.
Somewhere along the way from flying once every couple months to flying 100,000 miles per year I moved to the aisle. I lost the wonder of it all. Last week, I had a window seat and stopped working or reading long enough to spend some time looking out the window. Today, as I write this, I have just finished 20 minutes of window gazing. Some of the wonder is back!
There are many things in our lives that we once considered wonderful (full of wonder). Many of those things we now take for granted. All of this makes me wonder, where the wonder has gone.
Where’s the Wonder?
I believe seeing the wonder in things around us is one of the ways we make our lives more meaningful and enjoyable. This is one of the reasons we go on vacations. Yes, some people’s vacations consist of little more than a beach (which can be wonderful in many ways!). But many more people take time to learn new things on vacations, by going to museums and art galleries. Many of us travel to exotic places to marvel at sites, and cultures and foods. Wonder plays a big part in the allure of these trips and the satisfaction gained from the experiences.
You may be thinking, is wonder really such a big deal? I would say a resounding yes! Why? Think about it, the absence of wonder, is often called boredom, or worse, cynicism. These are not things that people aspire to!
While we can all certainly experience wonder in new things – new locations, new experiences, new books, new ideas, I believe I found an important key to a more enjoyable life outside the plane window. That key is to add more wonder to life by re-capturing past wonder, and finding new wonder in the things I do each day.
There are several things we can do to add to the wonder in our lives – to make our lives more wonder-full.
1. Look at things with fresh eyes. Think about things that have become habit for you. The next time you do them, do them as if you were a beginner again. Start with your drive or commute to work. Make it an exercise in finding wonder. For example, perhaps you go by a school on your way. Spend some time thinking about things from your kidhood days in school. Then try this “fresh-eyed” approach to other routine tasks.
2. Make a list of things you found wonderful at different stages in your life. If you write a journal do it there. If not, make these lists instead of watching TV one evening. Once you have the list, spend some time reveling in those wonders. Think too about how you could re-experience those things again.
3. Make a list of wonders you find each day or week. Again, a great journaling task, or a great routine to add to your planning for a new week.
4. Plan a mini-vacation or a day trip to someplace wonderful for you. I grew up on a farm, so a drive in the country in spring or fall is particularly helpful in restoring my sense of wonder in the growing process. Others might find your mini day to be boring – help them see your wonder – and in turn you will experience your own at a deeper level. Then go with them when they try to recapture their own.
5. Go to an old event, focused on different things. The next time you go to a ball game, focus less on the action, and more on the spectators, or vice versa. Go shopping and shop for something entirely different than you usually would. You get the idea.
These are just a few ideas to help you re-infuse your life with wonder. This idea is really taking hold in my life, in small ways each day is more wonder-full and more meaningful as well.
I believe when you choose to rediscover your wonder, you’ll benefit in the same ways.
You know, the Mississippi River is an awesome sight from 31,000 feet.