In Search of Awe

And why you should start prioritising your experience
What happens if you start putting your experience first and go searching for awe? For the last two months, I’ve been prioritising my experience and it’s been transformational. I feel more creative, connected and energised, and more opportunities are coming my way. Here are some of the things I’ve done to make awe part of my process.

Go in search of awe

I didn’t realise I had been actively searching for awe until the artist Coco Lom shared her discovery of Dacher Keltner with me. When I heard Dacher speak about the power of awe and how it’s at the root of connection, I realised this was exactly what I had been doing! You’ll have experienced moments of awe in your own life although you may not have thought of it in this way. Where meditation asks us to look inwards, awe is about getting out and looking up and about. Why did I start looking for it? It was when I suddenly realised I wasn’t fully appreciating the spring blossoms, going through the motions rather than fully enjoying my life and work. Since then I’ve been in search of experiences that make me feel — that give me those tingles down my spine — and remind me that I’m connected to something bigger rather than out here on my own.

Prioritise your experience

As small business owners, we always put our customers’ or clients’ needs and experiences first. However, even if you’re working on your own, you’re creating a culture, and if your work culture is wrong, you’re not ever going to get the best out of yourself. Prioritising your experience means if you’re happy and feeling good, this joy will flow into your customer’s experience and the work you’re creating. I’ve been dancing, going to openings, exhibitions, theatre, gigs, performances, talks. I’ve felt the bass resonate through my body, been moved, felt inspired, met amazing people, seen extraordinary things. These experiences can be small too, found in the beauty of a pattern of light or a flower growing in a crack, and as Dacher says On Being with Krista Tippet, in “ordinary people doing amazing things”.

Learn something new

Our brains are hardwired to be drawn to new ideas and experiences. Learning something new and meeting new people, helps in so many ways — including in finding the awe. I was invited to Mailchimp’s conference FROM: HERE, TO: THERE which was like a spa day— I’m not sure I can ever go to another conference again — and full of brilliant and inspiring speakers. I also completed a course on designing experiences with Adam Scott and Dave Waddler from FreeState, which made me realise this is what I have been doing my entire career: designing places for people to connect, whether it’s in a brand, a website, a street or a workshop.

Get creative

While Dacher talks about seeing art as a way to find awe, and this is definitely true, I think another way is by getting creative yourself. There’s increasing evidence in the field of neuroscience that doing something creative helps your brain function and soothes the nervous system. You also don’t need to be an artist to do something creative! The first thing I did when I was searching for awe was to book a printmaking course with Rosey Prince. It’s been brilliant. I think Rosey is incredible, she’s a very talented artist but also a great, fun teacher. A heady combination. Being encouraged to experiment, play, be surprised at what you create and amazed by other people’s creativity in the class, as well as experiencing their kindness in sharing their processes, is incredible and very much a source of awe. After the first class I immediately felt a shift in my way of thinking.

Do something with other people

We’re all extraordinary, even more so when we’re doing it together! Something really interesting happens when we do activities with other people. Our brains start to synchronise! Dacher talks about one of his studies that brought very poor children and veterans together to do rafting, and measured their stress hormone cortisol. At the start of the day they were all at different levels, but by the end they had synched physiologically. He talks about this as “collective effervescence” and it happens any time we do an activity in unison. For me, this really hits home when I dance and I can feel the bass come up through the floor into my heart. It’s also one of the reasons we collage in our Community MeetUp. We might be separated by distance but doing something together, and sharing our thoughts, transcends time and space. There’s nothing like doing an activity together!

Take time away from social media

This can be difficult if most of your business comes from social media, but stepping away is good for the soul. Social media is designed to capture our attention and sometimes you’ve got to get away from the screen to start experiencing life fully. For me, these last two months have felt more exciting — perhaps because the pressure to share has been off — but it also allowed me to reallocate that time to the things that really excite me. The next challenge is keeping up actively searching for awe while sharing again!

Schedule awe

While it can feel incredibly hard in the current climate to take time off, burning out takes more time to recover from than scheduling time out. While I thought I was making time for my joy, I wasn’t doing as good a job as I thought. Booking anything — a weekend away, a performance, gig, class — is a great way of protecting your time and making sure awe-seeking is part of your routine. You can find some ideas in Things To Do.

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