Wonder is different from curiosity. For me curiosity is opening a new door. Wonder is tuning the light on to what is there with fascination and amazement — inviting us to be more observant and engaged. It is the desire to know something more. It is an antidote to muddlement, because it takes us out of a stuck place into the realms of possibilities.
Rediscovering wonder takes root in the soil of the single sentence “I never noticed that before.” How much was invented or discovered because someone let themselves think that.
We often take for granted so much around us that is worthy of wonder. When we stop to really look with fresh eyes — seeing something with curiosity and then wonder and even maybe even awe. In the words of Michelle Shiota, awe is now coming to be seen as a crucial part of a meaningful life. In fact, the findings of studies in the field of awe have begun to converge and they show that awe affects us deeply, creating changes in our nervous system, our inflammatory responses, our heart beat and even our brains.1
Wonder can help keep us young and playful and alive to mini- miracles that are all around us, if we only look. I have seen too many burnt-out executives where stress has narrowed their world view to the point that they were like thirst-deprived people walking beside a water source they can’t even see.
Wonder doesn’t fix all ills or turn around the crusty issues that we deal with, but it goes some way to help us keep our senses open to the air thermals of fascination in the world; to look for and find the extraordinary in the ordinary. This is a habit we can grow. It can help in our exploring to slow us down and avoid the clinch of absolutism that one point of view has to be the only perspective. As coaches, it opens our own repertoire of questions that invite discovery and exploration.
In coaching conversations
Wondering together supports a learning partnership more open to the intimacy of true collaboration, because we are on a shared meander in the field of ideas.
Curiosity is a major mindset for a good coach. Wonder can take you even further. Encouraging a client to tap into their own sense of wonder can play a significant part in a transformation process, as a coachee raises their awareness in themselves and about their journey of understanding, change and development.
Wonder keeps us reflective. It promotes creativity so we have more options at our disposal for generative thinking: it is too easy to start eliminating ideas or closing down on options too early. We put up our own walls around our thinking when we don’t allow wonder to make even a small but regular appearance.
Because wonder encourages the playful side of us if we combine it with non-attachment to outcomes, we can stay supple and available to the unexpected.
As coaches there are ways we can encourage wondering and in so doing offer ourselves and others a chance to invite new thinking and new ideas. Our sense of resourcefulness increases. Far too often, we shut down thinking before it has really had a chance to fire up. Yet, history is littered with one generation saying ‘impossible’ and the next one saying’ look again, it’s happening.”. It all kicks off with wonder.
Wonder is a juicy bouncy space of unknowing. Equally it could be the quiet calm of a meditation space. It tickles the underbelly of empathy, which is akin to compassion.
As a coach, I have to let go of my need to unpick first and give more space to explore with a wondering mind. I use all my senses, my intuition as well as cognition. I might wonder what it will be like to see this situation as if for the first time: what would a novice see? If I woke up after twenty years asleep, what might I be drawn to in wonder about in my inquiry? What is next to us right now that we take for granted?
Wonder connects us to something wider
There is wonder when we see beauty in nature. Appreciating and respecting the wonder of the natural world creates an environment of protection and stewardship. We only have to step outside in nature for our wonder button to get pressed.
This isn’t fanciful thinking. Quite the opposite. It feeds and reminds us of an appreciation for the world, despite the big events happening in it. It also gives us a small moment to align with nature; to breathe a little more deeply; and recharge our battery and our most resourceful selves. Creating and being present to moments of wonder in our lives builds our best selves. Einstein said there are two ways we can see the world: as if nothing is a miracle and as if everything is.
Try this before a coaching session
Before you begin a coaching conversation, take a ten-minute walk outside with the sole objective of finding something that truly catches your eye in nature: the trunk of a tree, a flower, the way light hits the grass, the shades of green in multiple hues around you, a bird nearby, or the season displaying itself in one small object.
Just take a few moments to see the everyday miracle in front of you as a miracle you are part of. Take a mindful moment to connect to and sense the interconnectedness of all things in whatever way feels appropriate as the noise of life and the tyranny of the to-do list pauses briefly and we let ourselves be present to wonder. In touch with nature, we open the heart to more generosity.
I leave as a final gift the words of Irish poet John O’Donohue: it comes from the heart and so does wonder.2
Awaken to the mystery of being here
and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.
Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.
Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.
Respond to the call of your gift and the courage to
follow its path.
Let the flame of anger free you of all falsity.
May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.
May anxiety never linger about you.
May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of
Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek
Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.
May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven
around the heart of wonder.
- Paquette, Jonah, (2020): Awestruck, How Embracing Wonder Can Make You Happier, Healthier and More Connected. Shambhala Press (US)
- O’Donhue, John (2008): To Bless the Space Between Us, Convergent Books (US)
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