Living In Awe: Rediscover Your Childlike Wonder
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John O’Leary is an inspirational speaker and the best-selling author of On Fire: 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life and In Awe: Rediscover Your Childlike Wonder to Unleash Inspiration, Meaning, and Joy. Drawing from inspirational stories and research, he aims to show his readers that it’s possible to live with a deep sense of awe. O’Leary invites you to reclaim and embrace the childlike wonder that makes life colorful, fascinating, and joyful.
What does it mean to live “in awe”?
For those who either have their own children, they remember being a child, or they've ever seen a child, they know exactly what it means to be in awe. It's why little ones wake up early in the morning, look to the East with suspense, and are shocked every single time the light cuts through the darkness. It's why when you go through on a walk in the park with your kids, it takes four or five times longer to do the lap than it does when you're just with adults because they're stopping at every earth form, they're turning over every rock. They are drawn to the beauty and the majesty that lays out in front of them every day. It's why they look up at the sky in amazement that God would put it in front of us, something as grand as the stars, as the night sky, as the moon, as the clouds that are floating overhead. It's why they ask more questions. As you know, their favorite question is why? And eventually we as parents or grandparents or teachers teach them that there's only one way to do things, and they learn that those who get the highest grade in class don't ask questions.
I want people to ask questions and to be amazed by what is in front of them. I want them to be less judgmental. Jesus says, “Let the children come to me.” I don't think he's talking about people under the age of 10; I think he wants people who have hearts and minds that are open, and spirits that are longing for something greater.
Why is living in awe so important?
In 2018, 1.5 million American citizens attempted suicide. So when the market was at an all-time high when unemployment was at an all-time low, one and a half million of our brothers and sisters in this nation decided that their life is no longer worth living. That is something we've got to begin speaking directly towards. We have now built a society that feels that they are completely isolated sitting around. A national study said 54% of us feels that every single day we're doing life completely on our own in a period of time where travel has never been easier, connections are through phones and video chat. 54% of us feel as if we're doing life completely by ourselves. The vast majority, more than 65% of millennials feel that they have no one that they can actually lean into and trust. They have no real, dear friend that they are doing life with.
We, as adults, must break down these walls that divide us and make us think we should be doing life by ourselves. We are made to do life together. In Awe is an invitation to come together and to reach out to those around you, to love more openly, and to receive it more freely.
What have you learned from your kids about living with a sense of wonder?
They're the ones that taught me how to write this book. I was shaving with my son when he was only three years old (he’s got the cover on his shaver). Jack is shaving next to me, and my shirt is off. My stomach is covered with thick scars. I looked down at him, and he's tracking on my stomach with his index finger, this big thick red scar that goes almost from my neck all the way down through my stomach area. And then he says to me, “Daddy, your tummy is red. It is bumpy.” Well, how do I respond to this? My ego started to creep in, and some of my concerns about body image are creeping in. And so I'm getting ready to respond, letting him know it's okay, that I'll be a good dad for him anyway, and before I can even utter out my apologies. My son cuts me off and says, “And daddy, I love it. I love your tummy.”
They taught me to see life as everything is beautiful. And if you are able to do that, your entire life and the lives of those you do life with begin to change right in front of you.
How would you encourage someone who wants to get back to that place of childlike wonder but doesn't know where to start?
They can begin thinking again about what it was like for them as children. How would they go off into a spring day? What was like the first time they saw the ocean? How would they feel when they saw that sunset the first time? What, about that first hot chocolate? That that first ice cream sundae? As we age, we become bored by what we get familiar with. I would encourage all of us to go through life with this lens of “first time living”. Whatever experience is in front of you is unique. It is a gift. It is profound and it's worth celebrating.
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