A few weeks ago as I was leaving work, I looked up and saw a strange, ominous, and darkening skyline. While thunderstorms aren’t unusual for Dallas, this one was different. Shooting up thousands of feet into the air was a fearsome thunderhead. Underneath it, a strange, turquoise glow emanated from a lower band of clouds as streaks of lightning flared up all around. I have never seen anything like it. I half expected Lord Voldemort’s face to appear. The sheer size and strength of this storm (which would go on to produce softball-sized hail) was truly overwhelming.
Nature has a way of making us feel small.
Have you ever stood in front of an elephant, like at a zoo or, if you’re way cooler than I am, an African Safari? Did you know a single one can carry 130 people all at once? Now that’s power.
When was the last time you were out on the ocean? We all know it’s big, but did you realize just how big? If you are afraid of open water, watching this video — 131 Seconds That Will Change the Way You See the Ocean — will only enhance that fear. And, make you feel tiny.
The next time you escape the city lights, look up, and you’ll feel small real fast. Scientists can’t decide if there are 100 billion or 200 billion galaxies up there. Apparently their rough estimate allows for a leeway of 100 billion or so. Even the Hubble Telescope, NASA, and earth’s scientists are overwhelmed by the sheer size of space.
Overwhelmed in a Good Way
Sometimes it’s good, maybe even necessary, to feel overwhelmed.
To be sure, there is a bad kind of overwhelmed. Most of us feel overwhelmed a lot, but not because we’re at a zoo or looking at the horizon. Busy schedules and big expectations can make life feel like the whole world is on our shoulders. Maybe today you feel like don’t think you can live up to expectations placed on you by others or even yourself.
Every generation feels this way, but it seems millennials are taking anxiety and pressure to new heights. Why? When millennials are criticized, there are a few reoccurring themes. We’re egocentric. Self-focused. The most pampered generation ever. While that may or may not be true, I do know this: if anyone, millennial or otherwise, lives under the constant pressure to be the best parent, student, business person, leader, or anything else, it is impossible not to become overwhelmed. And, this pressure more than likely causes us to become a bit too self-focused, where the world hinges on our every success or failure.
If my ego has inflated just a bit too much, I’ve found the best remedy is a healthy reminder that I’m not as big of a deal as I often think. I’m actually quite tiny in the bigger scheme of things.
A Healthy Dose of Perspective
As I stood in front of that thunderhead, I suddenly felt small. Not small in the way a bully would make you feel; no insults or taunts we’re being tossed my way in the wind (that would be quite odd). I felt small in one of those ways that puts life a little more into perspective. There are a lot bigger things going on in the world all around me. I had the realization that the world was around a long time before me and will be around a long while after I’m gone. It was a strangely comforting reality check.
It’s ironic that, for me at least, the solution to feeling overwhelmed in a bad way is to find something that overwhelms me in a good way.
George Harrison once said, “Everyone should have themselves regularly overwhelmed by nature.” He shared what many others have discovered as they seek to be mindful in a distracted world. Getting out and looking up can do wonders for the soul.
Sometimes I feel like I overuse the word, “awesome.” Maybe I need to restrict it to those moments that are truly awe-inspiring. I believe nothing refreshes us like encountering something awesome – a power beyond our ability or a creation so intricate it points to an artist.
Find something in your world today that overwhelms and inspires you at the same time. Go outdoors and take a hike. Visit a museum and see a powerful piece of art. And then share your experience with someone… we all need a bit of perspective from time to time.
What is something that has overwhelmed you recently in a good way?