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I want to be surprised

Updated: Nov 10, 2019

I want to live life like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding. John O’ Donohue

“I want to be surprised” is what I blurted out a few years ago during an argument as I tried to explain why I did not really enjoy amusement parks. What I meant was that I didn’t want to see “nice”, I wanted to see wild, I wanted to live with the anticipation and wonder of what I might find, and I wanted the chance to be in awe.


Surprise makes us feel alive, it gives us the chance to find that awe that can only come when things exceed our expectations and when our efforts combined with chance produce the ‘unplannable’. Richard Burton once said that the gladdest moment in human life is a departure into unknown lands. The unexpected, wanting to be in awe, and the need for that element of surprise is what drives explorers to travel and wander.


If surprise is so important when travelling and exploring what stops this concept from transferring to our lives and profession? What is scary about not knowing our future outcome? What makes the fear of failure overcome the awe of surprise? This. The word failure. And what we make it mean about ourselves. If the definition of failure were “things we try and learn from” we would be able to put fear aside and just flow.


If at times you find yourself stuck in worry; try the following to enjoy in the process:

  • be curious about possibilities and ask yourself where each experience might take you,

  • reframe failure and look at roadblocks as opportunities for growth,

  • do what you love and enjoy each step rather than focusing solely on the outcome.


I want to live my life the same way I travel, curious about what will happen next and where my efforts will take me, prepared to adjust for roadblocks but also ready to be in awe of the beauty I might find.




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