I’m eleven years old and I’m playing soccer. It is halftime, and Nancy and Pam brought orange slices.
As a team we are trailing 2 to 1. This is a big game—the Supershots have no chance at a division title if we lose this one. Coach Doug and Coach Bruce are leading an impassioned speech, imploring us to dig deeper. Their energy is palpable.
We don’t care.
We don’t care at all.
Hailey, the older sister of friend and teammate, Rock, has just laid a towel down on the hillside adjacent the playing field. She lays down, directly behind Coach Doug and Coach Bruce. It is a warm Summer day and she is wearing a two piece. Sultry is the best way to describe it. Mikie and Matt, two other eleven-year-old teammates, are elbowing me. I’m drooling. Coach Doug and Coach Bruce yell louder, thinking they have our attention. We stare through them, collectively as young boys, in complete wonder. We are eating our oranges and we are loving life.
Hailey applies her first, and second, layer of sunscreen and the Supershots score 11 unanswered. Rock leaves the field without talking to any of us. We leave in wonder.
I’ve read a lot the last three years. If you’ve read anything I’ve written recently, you know I enjoy studying psychology and performance, especially that which is rooted in happiness and success. As I’ve amassed a pretty substantive collection of books and essays read, I’m starting to discern some absolute truths. Amongst those truths, what appears the most, by a long shot, is the principle of “wonder.”
It is in everything; touched upon by every psychologist and every social thinker as they work to understand and illustrate optimal living. With such a wide spectrum of subject matter, where happiness and success can be refined and specialized as it relates to the goal of the author, “wonder” is there. It may not always be directly noted or acknowledged as “wonder,” maybe being referred to in different ways—a “curious mind,” a “zest for life,” “excited living,” etc.—but it is there. To sound smart—if Hayley is reading this—“wonder” is the ubiquitous staple. It is always mentioned. Always.
If you’re not really familiar, or sure at this point what “wonder” is, read the opening anecdote again. Eleven-year-old boys trying to peek a boob is the best way I can describe it.
In its essence, though, as it relates to a living perspective, think of wonder like this:
Living with an absolute zest for life, certain, mindful, and appreciative of the boundless opportunities of the present moment.
Certain thoughts and words can become transformative. They can alter, and improve, the way in which you live. They do this because of how they are rooted—in wonder.
Here is an example, before the explanation:
Joe is a dick. Nothing goes right for him and people around him are dumb. He goes to work to support the fam—baby mama—but he does it solely because he has to. He has to answer to a boss he hates and he needs to make a certain amount of sales calls to fill a quota. His car is a shitbox and Louisiana is an ugly, flat state to drive through. Today, Joe has to visit an office that is next to a large park, so there is never any parking available. He counts the hours until the day is over. Joe may be a terrorist.
Beau isn’t that attractive but he is thankful. His hair is a little redder than he likes but it’s awesome how the success of Ed Sheeran makes that look so in. He loves the people he works with because the office is such a unique blend. He gets to go to work and meet someone new everyday and his boss understands that he may or may not hit on prospective female clients. He is lucky to work in a company so supportive. Beau gets to drive a lot too, which is great. His vehicle is one of luxury, equipped with an accurate camera for reverse-type-moves and the steering wheel is that wood grain, baby. After this lunch he will walk over to the park and sit for a few minutes, appreciating the beautiful lakefront views. If something tan, and lean, and lulu lemon walks in front of him, so be it. It’s all great and it’s all new.
The example of Joe shouldn’t be that relatable, because I made Joe someone I want to murder, but the way in which he thinks is common. Beau also isn’t that much of a cheesedick, but the respect and appreciation he exhibits for his company, and Ed, is real.
What is important, and hopefully enlightening, are two words that were used. They work best to describe wonder and how to live in it.
Have, has, or had.
The first—the “have” family—is begrudgingly fixed. There is no excitement and there is no opportunity for growth. Nothing is exciting and nothing is going to improve. You see things in a set, pessimistic way. Things that have to be done. Those simple words can imbue a downer mentality in everything you do. Think about something in your life that you absolutely love(d), maybe that amazing summer you were abroad. Did you have to go on that trip, where you made life lasting memories and discovered so much, or did you get to go because of the good fortune in your life that made the trip possible? What if everything—not just the cool shit—you do is something you get to do?
In the same way have, has, or had will incite that downer vibe through some cognitive and bodily osmosis, looking at something with gratitude does it too—just, in a happy, translatable way. Think about it. Any time you get to do something, you’re excited. It is either something new, or something you love, and it will always be something you look forward to. When you love and look forward to something, you appreciate it.
Appreciation, in the most organic form possible, forces you to engage the present. You see the possibility and beauty in everything. You think about where you are, what you’re doing, and what you get to experience. Grounded in appreciation, it is impossible not to live in wonder.
So, look at things with wonder. Don’t look at fourteen-year-old girls in swimsuits that way anymore, unless you’re eleven, but see through the lens of amazement.
Appreciate. Make the mundane exciting.
You get to live in a state where you can become a millionaire catching and killing alligators (Louisiana, not Washington, if you weren’t sure). You get the opportunity to improve, every day, in everything you do. You get to control your thoughts—everything being an opportunity to revel and grow.
Look at a thing in wonder, and then appreciate it every way you can.