Slap . . . slap . . . slap . . . went my arms as they hit the water during that early morning swim. I turned my head and saw the line of trees surrounding the lake and the blue and rose-tinted sky as the new sun led us into another day. I was sighting on the big white house at the end of the lake, and I glanced to my right to see my good friend, Fran, also slapping away at the water. Her pink cap and orange flotation device were visible behind her as she glided through the water, seemingly effortlessly; she was easily keeping up with me.
My mind wandered to an intense gratitude of being where I was, able to do this amazing thing with my body in such a special place. I mean, who gets to do this? Why me? This feeling of awe and wonder have been shown to give us hope and help us appreciate life. One sure-fire way of feeling awe and inspiration is to get out in nature, in fact, “. . . nature-inspired awe involves a “diminished self” and the “sensed presence of a higher power,” according to Dacher Keltner* and Jonathan Haidt . Awe is said to inspire creativity and contribute to personal wellbeing including lower stress and higher vitamin D levels.
We stopped at the beach by the white house, regrouped, high-fived, and set our sights for the far end of the lake a mile away near the playground. Slap . . . slap . . . slap . . . in unison we went. My mind wandered again from the surrounding peace and beauty to the resolute determination and resilience of the teammate beside me. Fran started swimming seriously just a couple years earlier in order to compete in the now popular triathlon scene. She could barely make 20 lengths of a pool, let alone the two-plus miles she was now training for; she was preparing for a 140.6-mile full-length triathlon race. I thought about what it took for her to reach this space and time and the amazing, concentrated effort she exhibited over the past years. She was brave, steadfast, and focused, especially when the going got tough . . . in short, she was resilient.
It’s easy to spot Fran when she completes the swim portion of a race; she’s the one pumping both arms in the air, a signature move she adopted more from relief at the feel of terra firma beneath her feet than accomplishing a spectacular race time. She was clearly my peer in the swim now, and I had been swimming far longer.
When we finished the two-mile trek, I felt strong, in touch with the earth, and fortified for a creative, productive day. Somehow that feeling of awe inspires our inner resilience, the way forward to overcome our fears and barriers.
I often talk on these topics of gratitude, awe, and resilience when life coaching in New Jersey. These are life skills that serve us well as we journey toward a way of being that includes thriving and healthy work, overcoming struggles and building resilience. Like Fran, one of my top strengths is perseverance, and I strive to meet my potential every day. Do I feel accomplished every single day? Not by a long shot. However, when I stop to appreciate the life I have and re-focus my perseverance and attention, I find the resources to keep going on my journey – however challenging. It is my hope that I can share this empowering practice with the people in my life and those who touch mine.
For more on my approach to coaching, take a look at my website and other blog posts about Life Coaching and Organization Development.
*https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/22/the-psychology-of-awe_n_5799850.html – Dacher Keltner is a researcher at Berkeley Social Interaction Laboratory and Co-Director of the Greater Good Science Center; Jonathan Haidt is renown author and Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business.