Day 1 — Why??
First, I have to say, that I have felt supremely uncreative lately. I saw a tweet recently that said, ‘Coronavirus is not a writers retreat’ and y’all, I felt seen. I simply haven’t had the mojo to create. The ‘doing’ has been fine (mostly) but the ‘thinking’ and the ‘creating’ — not so much. So, dear reader if you are looking at this and thinking ‘good lord, please not another overachiever shoving their new #quarentineinspoproject down my throat, I can barely bathe myself daily,’ don’t worry — I hear you. This isn’t it. And if you want to phase me out until you can deal with the world, I will not be offended. I’m all about the #selfcare these days.
So, given my self-professed lack of juices flowing (other than lime juice for margaritas, cuz #selfcare) what has compelled me to participate in the #100dayproject? For starters, two of my good friends are doing it (more below) and that has given me a little boost. Secondly, I am hopeful that a ‘bird by bird’ approach to creativity, ie: just a little bit each day, will help me get some mojo back. Third, for my mental health, I really need to focus on a timeline other than the one being spoon-fed to me by the news cycle of lockdowns, business closures, ICU beds, hospitalisations, and deaths. Lastly, and most importantly, I actually believe the message of wonder can serve to inspire, fascinate, drive and soothe people, and if it does that for just one person in the course of 100 days, then it was worth it. And, because we all need a bit more wonder.
So, what is the #100dayproject?
Well, every spring — 7 April this year, but I am getting started a bit late! — thousands of people from all over the world commit to 100 days of exploring their creativity and then share their output online. The community gives little nudges along the way, and it is a mechanism for spurring more creativity in the world. Everything from painting to knitting, video to the written word. Anything someone wants to contribute that they feel is a creative enterprise is fair game.
And why wonder?
Wonder is so cool!
It is a journey that encompasses pausing and meandering, curiosity and awe. Curiosity is fascinating. It acts as a trigger to dopamine and so when we are curious about something it’s a bit like a drug to us. But what’s really cool is that when we learn the answer to the thing we are curious about, it triggers the hippocampus — that part of our brain responsible for long-term learning — meaning that thing we learned sticks with us for longer.
Awe is also an incredible emotion. It is the only dually valanced emotion, meaning it can sit in both the positive and negative ends of the spectrum. Think of a huge crashing wave. It can be beautiful, but scary too. That is awe. Awesome and awful both have the same root word don’t they? For us to feel awe, we have two sets of criteria that need to be met: the first is that it’s an experience that gives us such pause that it almost takes our breath away. The second is that the experience changes the lens through which we see the world. In the end we feel like a small component of a bigger system, and this can have all sorts of benefits.
What sorts of benefits? We can feel less stressed. Less time pressure. We feel smaller, so our problems feel smaller. And we are more generous and empathetic (goodness do we need heaps of this right now!) Those are the psychological benefits. Physically it lowers blood pressure, inflammatory cytokines and heart rate to name a few. It’s pretty magical. And yet the kind of magic we can actually prove with science.
Why do we need wonder now?
In the initial, it’s just going to make us feel better. But this disruption we’re experiencing is really going to force us to look at what we value and decide what world we want to return to. For example, do we want to keep focussing on happiness as a goal? Wonder as a goal, rather than happiness, allows us to be present in the happy moments, but also be present in the moments of fear and sadness, which are inevitable. No mud, not lotus as they say. But even in the mud — the tough times — we can feel a sense of wonder at the experience, still gaining from that moment without forcing a positive emotion that simply doesn’t fit.
It’s also important because our culture has conditioned wonder-awareness out of us. From an education system that curbs curiosity in pursuit of standardised test scores, to a business culture that worships at the altar of the cult of overwork, we have traded wonder for instant gratification. But wonder can be even better, and this from the woman who loves instant gratification! (So don’t put down that pint of Netflix & Chill’d on my account!)
If you want to follow my friends on their 100-day journey, you can find Elena here, sharing inspirational stories of female film makers, or Anne here, sharing actionable tips for female founders. Just the process of discussing this with these two has really upped my energy levels, and it is a small act of solidarity in these strange COVID times to be doing this project with the two of them.
As for me, I’ll be writing and podcasting on the topic over the next 100 days. Some of the work won’t be ready for primetime, so I will keep those days to myself. But every few days I will pipe up with some wonder nugget, be it big or small, just to get you thinking — and wondering — about the world in a different way. #GoInWonder
(I write on Medium about what moves me. Feel free to pop on over to HATCH for more workplace related content.)