Wonder: Cure for Practicality

 In For Leaders, Honorable Closure (HC), Mindfulness, Reclaiming Joy, Tools & Resources

“What if my dream isn’t practical?”

This question came from a scientist who had just finished a 10-minute journaling session describing her ideal future. I was co-teaching a 2-day Search Inside Yourself* class at a biotech corporation. Prior to journaling we took the group through an exercise to identify their core values, and this person, a mother of two, valued time with her children. Her ideal future includes spending more time with them. Given the demands of her job, this desire appears (to her) to be impractical.

How would you respond to this question? My co-teacher is a husband, devoted father of two young girls, and oversees a neuroscience research lab at Stanford. He could empathize with being time-pressed. We all can.

“What are your children’s names?” I ask. When she says their names aloud, her eyes get dewy and I know we are touching a tender place.

Practicality is a construct, a way of perceiving things that is heavily influenced by culture and upbringing. Perceptions can shift. My favorite definition of a miracle is: a change in perception. Advances in science bring us miracles everyday. This woman’s poignant (and ironically practical) question tells me it is time for her to explore her definition of Practical to determine where it comes from. Life passes too quickly to guide our lives by external guidelines. Don’t get me wrong, pragmatism has its place, but life will feel more aligned with her heart if she syncs it to a self-defined, internally generated standard. I encourage her to do some research in the living lab that is her life: get curious and play with her definition by doing one impractical thing a week. What might that look like?

Since 1986 (according to the Oxford University Press) there have been over 200 research studies that affirm the value of talking and writing about one’s feelings, emotions, hardships, and dreams. Time after time, it has been shown that journaling helps improve well-being, attitude, creativity, resilience, etc. It accelerates the process of self-discovery.

Since our purpose that day was to teach a program of mindfulness and emotional intelligence (grounded in the latest science), I encouraged her to journal using the prompt: “I wonder how I can spend more time with Ella. I wonder how I can spend more time with James.” Wonder gives the neo-cortex (the thinking part of the brain) the assignment to look for possibilities.

“Just ask the question and be open,” we tell her. “Play with it and see what happens.”

*To learn more about this program, which was developed inside Google and remains it’s most popular internal training course, check out the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI).

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Showing 2 comments
  • Katherine

    I can affirm the value of writing about one’s “feelings, emotions, hardships, and dreams.” Thanks for the reminder, and for your WONDER-filled
    work – “I wonder how I can spend more time writing today?”

    • Linda Curtis

      Great application, Katherine!! Thanks for reading and wondering and writing!