According to Gallup’s latest report, positive experiences have dropped for the first time in three years. Overall last year, people worldwide felt more worried, stressed, and sad than at any time in the past 16 years.
So how DO we inject some joy, happiness, and enjoyment into our experiences to resist the takedown of negative emotions?
After reading the book Transcend, The New Science of Self-Actualization by Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D., I learned some strategies that I want to share but first a story.
On mother’s day a year ago, my brother and sister-in-law shared the news. Megan received a job offer to manage a Florida office. My brother, Jackson, would be able to dust off his old mobile pizza oven business and a life transition from the west to the east coast had officially begun.
They took months preparing their townhome to sell. By February of this year, they found and put an offer on their dream home. A modern open-concept, 2,500-square-foot home with a pool and backyard that butted up against a golf course that was located south of Sarasota, Florida.
A week later, after their dream home offer fell through, my brother called with some updated developments.
‘Megan has decided to not take the position in Florida, she quit her job and we are buying a camper van and traveling the country for the next year.’
“Omg! That’s amazing!” I exclaimed.
Many Americans decided to hit the open road during lockdowns these last couple of years but my positive reaction to their whiplash decision was because of the book I was reading. In the final chapters of Transcend, Dr. Barry Kaufman talks about the importance of peak moments. Essentially in order to meet Maslow's higher levels of self-esteem and self-actualization on his hierarchy of needs, we as humans need to generate peak experiences. Most people discover these moments of awe in nature but we can find them anytime, anyplace anywhere!
Jackson and Megan are going to be injecting their life with novelty, nature, and maybe even some peak experiences over the next year! This is why they were the inspiration to write this blog. How are they going to change as individuals and grow into their most realized selves? *We shall see!
So, if we cannot unplug from our lives like Megan and Jax, how can we cultivate more awe and generate more peak experiences in our life?
Chapter 7 from the Transcend book and The Greater Good Science Center offers us some insights:
Firstly, awe moments are not rare and include:
A moment of reverence
A feeling of the sacred
Transcending the body, time, and space
Moments of awe can be generated at any time, anyplace, and anywhere and with anyone but research says people typically report them:
At an athletic event
The benefits of awe or peak experiences:
Self-loss during transcendent experiences results in positive health and growth
Help people arrive at their potential
Deeper sense of purpose
Reduced fear of death
The feeling of having more time
Gratefully, I can report moments of awe and three peak experiences in my life that have helped me feel small and integrate who I am with the greater oneness. All three of my peak experiences were unexpected (on a bus, on my couch, on a cliff) and happened after challenging life experiences.
What have been your moments of awe?
In conclusion, do we build a staircase to Mt. Everest? The answer is no way! These peak moments may hit us unexpectedly but they are typically tied to a challenge. For instance, carrying a child in a womb for 9 months, followed by a peak childbirth experience, or hiking for 10 miles to arrive at the peak of the mountain with unimaginable views. Meditation can allow us to transcend but typically after months or years of dedicated practice.
I believe whether we want to cultivate peak experiences or improve our daily habits, effort is the key to transcending and meeting our life’s aspirations. Letting go of the outcome and pointing our daily focus in a health-fostering direction is where the magic lies.
Some more helpful strategies from the Transcend book to “BE” in the moment:
Keep your eye on the end, not only on the means
Seek fresh experiences
Grand trees, seashore, museums, libraries, art, ants, flowers
Cultivate periods of quiet, get out of our world, usually locality, immediate concerns
Periodically get away from time and space concerns, aka: away from clocks and calendars, responsibilities
Be compassionate, and kind to yourself
Remove comparison, social roles, titles, degrees
How would a person living in a hut in Africa view your current life now?
I’m so proud of Jackson and Megan. What an awesome way to overcome adversity, build resilience and live a fulfilling life. Cheers to many peak moments, family!
Thanks for reading,
*Check out some photos of their journey thus far and follow them on their channels:
Did you have any takeaways or action steps from this essay/blog? Feel free to let me know in the comments below:)
Buddhist Photo was given to me by my old therapist