Step 5: Awe

Step 5: Awe

Awe can mean fear or it can mean exhilarated amazement, and sometimes it can be both.  A good example is the conflicted feelings a bride or groom may feel on their wedding day, the fearful “what am I getting myself into?!?”  and the exhilarated “I can’t believe this amazing person wants to marry flawed me!”

What does awe have to do with learning?

Having a mentor whom you deeply respect and look to as a role model, in other words are in awe of, can inspire you to be more, learn more and work harder.  Whatever you admire about your role model is a reflection of something you can develop in yourself.  Usually these are specific character traits, although it can be the breadth and/or depth of knowledge your mentor has in an area that interests you.  This inspiration can help you break out of a rut or motivate you to work on something you may never have thought about working on before you were inspired by this role model.

The reality is that life itself is awesome and that everyone knows this.  This is why universally people are struck by the awesomeness of the birth of a newborn.  For the parents, it is a mix of the wonder of the miraculous that just took place and the fear of the awesome responsibility they just received.  Too often we get sidetracked by the petty things in life and it is this particular point where there is room to expand our self and improve our quality of life and learning.

The reason it is so important to optimize your learning is because life IS learning.  As Henry Ford so eloquently said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”  Anyone who does not feel like they are still accomplishing loses the desire to live.  It doesn’t matter whether it manifests “mildly” as depression or strongly as suicidal.  You also know that you prefer to be around people who have joie de vivre.  I know I do.  This is why I love working with children.  Young children are not bogged down by the petty things.  They are consumed with awe of life and learning.  Even if they are temporarily distracted by something petty they quickly rebound and move on, they don’t spend days or years dwelling on it.

By focusing on how amazingly awesome our lives are we can keep perspective and learn with more enthusiasm.  Think of the miracle of breath, and how not everyone is fortunate enough to breathe as easily as you do.  In any particular subject you are studying, think about the wonder and cleverness underlying the particular body of knowledge.  Study yourself, be amazed by your strengths and abilities and build on them.  You don’t have to be the world’s best _________________ (seamstress, driver, philanthropist, mathematician, computer programmer, athlete, cook, parent, etc.)  you just have to be your best.  Since there is always room for improvement the challenge is in staying inspired and motivated to keep working on learning and growing for a lifetime.

What is amazing about you?  The answer should trip off your tongue.  If it doesn’t you need to immediately ask people who know you well.

How do you stay inspired to continue?

Best,

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