Oh Wow! Recapturing Wonder

All who read the tribute to Steve Jobs in Sunday’s NY Times by his sister Mona Simpson were touched by her report that his last words, as he gazed at his family, were

“Oh Wow, Oh Wow, Oh Wow”


We don’t know exactly what Steve meant with this statement but certainly there was a component of wonder in his poignant response.

There are moments, few and far between, when we have had similar feelings of wonder. Maybe we felt it when we saw the Grand Canyon for the first time or observed the birth of a child. The sad thing is that it is there, right in front of our eyes, every day, and we miss it over and over again.

Remember the TV series “The Wonder Years”? In one way or another the show depicted the perennial response of wonder of children to seemingly ordinary circumstances. Have you watched them lately? Everything from an ant dragging a crumb up a wall to a dog wagging its tail can elicit a wide-eyed response. And then in the advancing years this natural exuberance seems to die a slow death.

The opposite of wonder could well be anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure. That’s often a symptom of depression or other severe psychiatric disorders. But at times it seems that large parts of our world is suffering from anhedonia.

We take ourselves too seriously.

We have so few belly laughs.

Life weighs so heavy on our shoulders.

And we struggle to lighten up.

And we miss the moments of magic in ordinary day to day events.

Not that all of us don’t face difficult circumstances. We do. But wonder is up for grabs every day.

One of my sons suffers from schizophrenia. One of the symptoms of this disease is flattened affect. Last year he visited us in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico where we live part of the year. On the first day of his visit we took him to the central town square. This world Heritage location is graced by a magnificent gothic style parish church. It is one of the most beautiful and photographed structures in Mexico. As characteristic of his disease, he walked the mile from our home to the square in silence, his gaze fixed on the sidewalk not uttering a word. At the square he, for a moment, lifted his fixed gaze, looked at the church, and uttered

“Oh wow”

Indeed Wow. All of us still have this capacity for wonder. How can we rekindle this emotion?

1.    Learning to be more present in our everyday circumstances. (See the previous blog posting). Such mindfulness opens the aperture of our consciousness to the experience of wonder. That is because, as J.C Bays described mindfulness;

” we replace self-criticism with self-nurturing, anxiety with curiosity, and shame with respect for your own inner wisdom”

2.    Getting out of our perpetual thoughts like not feeling bad about the past or scared of the future. Read Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” which has been a life-changing book for many.

3.    Lighten up and learn to laugh again. It helps to surround ourselves with people who have a sense of humor and don’t take themselves or us too seriously.

A key factor is to realize that when one is present one is open to wonder. Experiencing wonder is an essential part to feeling alive. It awakens you to both the life within you and surrounding you. It also helps you to find ways to not spend life sitting on the freeways of existence wishing you were somewhere else.

Wonder is there. Right under your nose.

And so is the joy that follows in its wake.

Please leave a comment on how you experience wonder.

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About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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1 Response to Oh Wow! Recapturing Wonder

  1. Meredith Moraine says:

    I’m glad you put being present in the #1 place, because it’s the preoccupied mind that seems to wear blinders. Focussing in like a young child reveals the small miracles, while relaxing outward into 360 degree awareness reveals the amazing dance we’re part of.

    Thank you for the “oh, wow” reminder!

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