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Monica C. Parker is the author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller The Power of Wonder and a world-renowned speaker, writer, and authority on the future of work. Parker has[…]

The pursuit of happiness is unrealistic. Seek this other emotion, instead. 

Monica Parker, founder of HATCH and author of “The Power of Wonder,” says our world is utterly obsessed with happiness. We have so many types of initiatives – self-help books, programs, and even careers – centered around achieving happiness that we’ve reached toxic levels of positivity. This is a problem, as it forces us to interpret our experiences through a single – often overrated – emotional lens. 

Instead, we should pursue wonder, which is neither wholly positive nor wholly negative. Parker likens the feeling of wonder to watching a butterfly emerge from a chrysalis – it is beautiful, complex, and even a little scary. This profound mix of awe, curiosity, and fear, is something that, when achieved, can expand our resilience and deepen our interpretation of the world around us. 

The key to wonder? Slowing down. Parker explains that tuning into our three types of “wonderbringers” – natural, social, and cognitive – and incorporating “slow thought” activities into our lives, can help us be more receptive to wonder and the benefits it provides. By abandoning the pursuit of happiness and filling our days with things that spark wonder, that aren’t entirely based on positivity, and that fuel our curiosity and our passions, we can overcome our emotional barriers and live truly fulfilling,  wonder-full lives. 

MONICA PARKER: We are a world obsessed with happiness. We have Chief Happiness Officers and World Happiness Reports. Many self-help genres are focused on happiness as the end goal. Even America's founding documents say "the pursuit of happiness." The challenge is, we're so terrible at knowing what will make us happy. And frankly, when you look at headlines, when you look at the state of the world, happiness doesn't always seem like a realistic emotion.

Rather than seeking happiness, I think it's more realistic and more achievable for people to seek wonder. My name's Monica Parker. I'm the founder of HATCH and I'm the author of *The Power of Wonder: The Extraordinary Emotion That Will Change the Way You Live, Learn, and Lead*. I think it's a sad irony that we are as a world obsessed with positive emotions. In fact, often we end up in this situation of toxic positivity. What toxic positivity does is it really takes away the ability for us to experience the full richness of our emotional portfolio. If we focus so heavily on positive emotions, we're missing out on the richness of both negative emotions, but also these mixed emotions that really help us metabolize what happens in the world.

What's amazing about wonder is that it's both positive and negative at the same time. Wonder is not just this positive self-transcendent experience. There is a certain level of conflict. Think of a butterfly coming out of a chrysalis. There's violence there, there's terror there, but then there's the beauty. And so having a greater emotional portfolio, being able to tap into a lot of different types of emotions to express how we're feeling, actually makes us more resilient because we're able to better make sense of what's happening to us in our world. And I think that that is what makes wonder so impactful.

When I introduce the concept of wonder, I think people believe it's really amorphous and spiritual, and it can be that, but it's also very grounded and concrete. It's about saying, I am going to see wonder in my day-to-day life. One of the ways to do that is with wonderbringers. They're whatever brings you a sense of wonder. A great indication that you are in the presence of a wonderbringer is it gives you goosebumps. Nature is a really fundamental primary way that many people find wonder. We then have social, we can find a sense of wonder from the people around us, our families, and our friends, or a charismatic speaker could be a social wonderbringer. And then we have cognitive, and cognitive wonderbringers are things like, thinking about the nature of a folded universe. You know, something that really gets your noggin thinking. The number of things that can bring you wonder within those categories are infinite and all of these elements just help start to teach us about what brings us wonder.

The challenge is we put a lot of barriers between us and wonder. One of those barriers is being in a hurry. We're always in a hurry and might just zoom right past wonder. Certainly these fabulous little devices that we have in our pocket, our phones, they want us to be clicking and scrolling as quickly as possible, but that doesn't help us get closer to wonder. We need to slow down, create the time and space in order to find wonder, and we can do that through what I call slow thought.

There are a few different ways that we can bring slow thought into our life. And the first is meditation. Meditation helps us quiet that chattering mind, where we can banish rumination, and allow our brains to notice wonder. Another slow thought activity is narrative journaling. Our brains love stories, and so if we can write stories about our own experiences of wonder, that actually extends the experience of wonder and enhances it. And then the last slow thought activity is sleep. Sleep deprivation doesn't allow our brains to process what it's experienced from day to day. If we're sleep deprived, then we simply won't be able to engage in the other slow thought activities that help bring us closer to wonder.

People think because I wrote a book about wonder that I am an expert. Well, I'm an expert at understanding it, but maybe not finding it. I am not a wonder Jedi Master. I am still on this journey with everyone else. And so every day I make a conscious decision to try to slow down, to find the beauty in the quotidian. We live in such a fast world, but if we choose to view the world through a wonder lens, we can find it and find it every day.