Between the ages of 6 and 9, I spent every summer in a little beach town an hour outside of Lisbon/Portugal. Ericeira. While mom and her friend Claire sat in the shade of the cloth cabana that we rented on the beach, my brother Thomas and I would eagerly wade into the shallow water of the Atlantic and walk out to the rock formations just beyond the beach.
Amid the nooks and crevices of these rocks a secret world of underwater flora and fauna awaited us. Of all the delights and discoveries in the universe right around these rocks, nothing was more thrilling to me than the moment when I would find a seahorse.
I loved the shape of the seahorses. Their salty smell. Their slippery grace. Their mystical and primal beauty.
Finding a seahorse was a moment of indescribable joy.
Holiday season is upon us. While you and I may long for moments of such simple childlike delight, truth is holiday time often becomes the very opposite of this longing. We rush to meet end-of-year work deadlines. Hustle to buy the perfect gifts. Go overboard in decorating the house. Stand in long lines at a bursting-at-the-seams airport.
Hustle. Rush. Hustle some more. And much of our frenzied activity is driven by the belief that our life is not enough as is.
Wonder is the singular experience that, for a fleeting moment, disrupts our awareness and dissolves our biases so we may see again what is real and true, beautiful and possible. ~Jeffrey Davis, Author of Tracking Wonder
If everything is mindset, why not cultivate a seahorse mindset? And why not use the seductions of the season to do so? I don’t suggest you run off to Ericeira or your beach of choice to invoke such moments. No, find them in the places where you spent most of your time. At work. At home. In your community. Every day. Right in front of you.
Because seahorses are everywhere.
Here are a few primers to help us cultivate a seahorse mindset and capture more seahorse moments.
Create some disruption.
I have had a house guest staying with me for the week. And Rachel will stay for one more week. Rachel is a marvelously thoughtful guest. And yet there are moments when I resent that she’s here. Rachel is staying in the guest house which I also use as my place to lounge, read, write and do a bit of work. I don’t do those things in the guest house while she’s here. Every time I look from my kitchen counter out to the pool deck there Rachel is – lounging in a chaise, reading a book, galivanting in the pool.
I have to chuckle as I jot down these words. The moment I release these thoughts I find delight in the fact that Rachel is around and in full view of me. I get to have a spontaneous conversation with someone I like, anytime I want. I receive genuine joy from watching Rachel enjoy the pool. I, the committed lap swimmer, get to experience the pool in an entirely new way. I catch the appreciative smiles Rachel sends in my direction as I work at the kitchen counter. Yup, seahorse moments.
Choose to linger.
Easy to jot down here. I notice how I fight my very own advice. Even though I am my own boss and have more wiggle room in my schedule than most, I have my to-do lists, my client calls, my Mastermind sessions. I like to dash from item to item, commitment to commitment. Untethered action mode.
Linger means I show up with the intention to NOT rush. Notice. Linger. Notice. Linger. And linger some more. Just for a second or two. In conversation with a colleague. In observing something that’s going on right in front of me. Or in reflecting on a thought that just showed up in my brain. Uhuh. Linger with myself. Delight and discovery are much more likely to occur when I give myself permission to linger.
Expand your vision.
Our vision tends to be narrowly focused on a task we’re performing or a specific quest we’re on. When we’re not looking for something particular, we’re likely looking out at the world and not seeing anything at all. Or at best, a blur of what’s actually there. Our preoccupation with the thoughts that float through our brain overrides any visual or auditory evidence that’s right in front of us. The seahorse is there. We simply don’t see it.
I can’t engage with the seahorse if I don’t notice it. How do we enhance our likelihood of seeing the seahorse? Command-switch from IN to OUT. That means switch from preoccupation with your thoughts to the sensory evidence in front of you. And when you’re in OUT mode, think OUT far and wide. Peripheral vision. Wide lens. Scan the big picture. Catch the unexpected. Notice the detail. Be willing to be surprised.
Anticipate the delight.
The beauty of my beach days in Ericeira? I looked forward to wading out to the rocks every single morning in anticipation of the delights I might find. I had a seahorse mindset, based on lots of empirical evidence. I knew magical moments were waiting for me out there by the rocks. This anticipatory joy alone invoked more delightful discoveries.
Now, there may be a lot of things about the holidays or your work that you don’t look forward to in the morning. Focusing on those will not get you closer to delight. Instead, do a little inventory of the little things that DO give you pleasure. At work. During the holidays. In life. Pleasure may come in fleeting moments. Informal ones. The verbal banter with a certain colleague. A neighbor’s greeting. A quick meal shared with your boss. The satisfaction of solving a problem. Choose to wholeheartedly feel the delight in such moments. Anticipate the possibility of more such moments. That anticipation in itself is magical, isn’t it!
Can I ever experience the world again as I did as that little boy who climbed the rocks just beyond the beach in Ericeira? My experience of life is, after all, colored by many more life experiences. Some of those experiences may have made me a little tougher, a bit more jaded.
We are told to connect with our inner child, Jeffrey Davis, author of the marvelous book “Tracking Wonder,” says to me as I interview him for the MY FOURTH ACT Podcast. I prefer the term ‘young genius.’ Reconnect with him.
Just a little mindset shift. Young genius. I like that. Thank you, Jeffrey.
Mindset. Permission. Notice. Linger. And linger some more.
It’s seahorse season. My young genius is ready.
Related: Be IMPATIENT. Do It Well.