The actual meaning of awesome (as provided by various online dictionary sources) is “causing or inducing awe; inspiring an overwhelming feeling of reference, admiration or fear.” On the occasions I hear awesome used, it’s describing a pizza, paying tribute to a famous person, or bridging a gap in the speaker’s limited vocabulary. When a word is overused it simply makes us all sound lame.
Our ego loves words and phrases for purposes of self-promotion, and in some cases, self-protection. That is why awesome is so appealing. There is no need to pause and reflect on the mystery and beauty in our world that surely represents a Higher Power. We choose the object of our praise and declare our admiration, however insincere.
When leaders overuse buzzwords and jargon they lose credibility. If every individual or team accomplishment is declared awesome, it cheapens personal or professional success.
I’m inviting leaders to practice more awe instead of declaring everything as awesome. Awe is “an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime.” What would practicing more awe look like?
- It would begin by taking the focus off ourselves. Leaders who insist that the world revolves around them will never be in awe of anything. Awe happens when we yield to the things beyond ourselves.
- It would require leaders to be fully present in every situation without the need for control. You won’t notice wonder or miracles if you are busy trying to disprove their existence.
- It would include paying more attention to nature. This past week my local community was hit hard by severe thunderstorms that even generated a small tornado. The Midwest has been devastated by dozens of tornadoes in the past month. Awe seems the only appropriate way to describe these natural phenomena.
It’s time to practice some restraint. Let’s stop describing potato chips, our favorite sports team, or that new piece of business we just landed as awesome.
Let’s reflect on the real world around us; the one we are passing through without actually experiencing. Focus less on ourselves and our need for control. Stop, look, listen and feel.
Notice the awe in those moments. They will far outnumber any of our current references to awesome.
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