“Go do something awesome.” It sounds like just as much a marketing slogan as it does a motto to live by, right? But doing something awesome is perhaps exactly what we all need. In an article last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that the feeling of awe can heavily influence positive social behaviors and substantially impact how we view the world. Research shows that awe-experiences inspire us to be more empathetic and comfortable connecting with the world around us.
The article explains that awe can be associated with a variety of experiences and often connect to nature, religion, music or sports. The feeling is an emotional response to what is happening around us and researchers believe that it pushes us to see the world differently. Paul Piff, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of California says, “Awe minimizes our individual identity and attunes us to things bigger than ourselves.” As I read the article I thought of an experience I had a few years back in Barcelona. We had come across Santa Maria del Mar (Our Lady of the Sea) church in the city’s Gothic Quarter. From the outside it looks exactly like what you would imagine a medieval European church to look like. The interior was stone grey, mostly unornamented, and barely lit by candle light and the small amount of natural sunlight that came through the stained glass windows. But I was fixated on the church’s massive design and structure. It was simple, yet magnificent. To me it embodied fortitude and endurance. In that moment I felt more connected to history than I ever had before.Dr. Dacher Keltner, Director of the Berkley Social Interaction Lab at the University of California believes that on average we have about three awe moments per week. Recently he took 56 inner-city high school students on a rafting trip to see what impact it would have on their academics. A week after their trip he reported that the students were more interested in developing a sense of global awareness and knowing what was happening outside of their individual life. As I finished reading I thought about what those students may have felt when rafting. I thought more about my experience and wondered if they similarly, now looked at the trip as a special moment in their life.
Many of us, including myself, use the word “awesome” without even thinking about what the word really means. But it’s not something you can just say, it’s something we need to feel. It doesn’t matter if it involves going to Spain or rafting in a local river, in the end you need to get out there and go do something awesome!