May 28, 2007
A Daily Dose of Awe and
Most of us wake up thinking about how we are going to meet obligations
and fulfill promises to other people. We begin our day in response mode
and remain that way until it’s time to go to bed. For 12 years, I have
begun my day with the same positive ritual.
The First Step:
matter where I am, I start my day with a moment of awe. I wake up and
head for the nearest window. I open the curtain and look outside. When
I’m at home, I look at the ocean. When I’m at a hotel, I look at tall
buildings. When I’m in Maine, I look at trees. Wherever I am, there is
always something interesting to draw my attention. Each time I look out
my window, I appreciate the fact that the universe does not revolve
around me. It includes me.
Immersed in the wonder and awe of something that I cannot explain, this
first step in my morning ritual reminds me that the world is much bigger
than my life and my concerns.
mom grew up in Maine and often reflects on the beauty of nature. She
once said to me, “Think of the beauty of maple trees. The same force
that makes sap run up a tree from its roots to its trunk, against
gravity, is the same force that resides inside of you.”
Mom made her point by gently poking me in the gut and saying, “It’s
right there – connect to it.”
University of Virginia Psychologist Jonathan Haidt, author of the
Happiness Hypothesis, and Dacher Keltner, University of
California-Berkeley Psychology professor, wrote about awe in Christopher
Peterson and Martin Seligman’s book, Character Strengths and Virtues:
“People consistently report that experiences of awe and elevation have
profound outcomes, motivating self-improvement, personal change,
altruistic intentions and actions and the devotion to others and the
The Second Step:
The second step of my morning ritual focuses on gratitude. I say
everything for which I am grateful. Philosophers, religious leaders and
teachers have taught us for thousands of years to begin our day by
expressing and feeling gratitude for everything and everyone we have in
list includes being grateful for a new day, the sleep I had the night
before, my health, my family (by name), my close friends (by name), my
key supporters in business (by name) and important opportunities
professionally and personally. I make it a habit of visualizing the
people and things as I say them. I want to keep these images fresh in my
“Grateful individuals have a sense of abundance," according to research
by psychology professor Phillip Watkins and his colleagues at Eastern
Washington University. "Grateful individuals appreciate the common
everyday pleasures of life . . . grateful individuals appreciate the
contribution of others to their well-being.”
Rewards of a Ritual
ritual can smooth life’s transition as can perhaps nothing else," wrote
Huston Smith, professor of Religion and Philosophy at Syracuse
University, in his book The Religions of Man.
Gratitude and awe in my morning ritual helps me transition from a night
of sleep to a new day of possibility.
Rituals also serve another function, says Smith, "namely to intensify
appreciation and crown man’s joy with celebration.”
Every day is a new opportunity. What would happen if you started each
day with a little awe and gratitude? This positive ritual could change
© 2007 David J. Pollay.
Distributed by North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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