What Is The Most Desired Human Emotion?

What I’ve learned from a decade pursuing and studying adventure.

I am delirious with pain, as my ER doctor shows off a hoof print embedded in my shoulder

At 23, I made a realization that changed the course of my life. Inspired by the expression that I’d see on my niece’s face when she made a learned something that changed her view of life, I wanted to understand how I could experience more moments of awe.

Now, as a human behavior scientist and author of The 2 AM Principle: Discover the Science of Adventure, I have spent almost a decade pursuing and studying adventure. I have traveled to all seven continents, almost fallen off the Ghost Tower of Bangkok and gotten lost in the desert during a sandstorm. In that time, I’ve experienced my fair share of awe.

What makes awe so unique is that it causes us to reevaluate our place in the universe. In this state, we realize the enormity of life. People report feeling more connected and generous. Considering how rare awe is, mos of us only experience it a few times in our lives, many would argue that it is the most desired emotional state. If it is so desired, how can we trigger it?


The Japanese word Yugen describes an awareness of the universe too deep and powerful for words; we are dumbstruck. One of the best ways to experience it is to go to outstanding and extraordinary places. Experience the never ending ice of Antarctica, the Aurora Borealis from rural Iceland, or the amazing Cave of Swallows in Mexico. When we are exposed to such unimaginable beauty and scale, we can not help but be in awe.

On a private Island in Stockholm for Midsummer


A fundamental characteristic of wonder is that we are exposed to something that is distinct and different. A place, person or idea forces us to see the world differently. According to research by Nico Bunzeck and Emrah Düzel Our brain responds to novelty by enticing us to explore and understand.

Try different activities, even if you don’t think that you’ll like them. Go someplace completely unfamiliar. Many people don’t experience wonder, because they don’t force themselves into unique and interesting situations. The key is in maximizing your exposure to novelty, so say yes to new experiences.

Exploring the Islands on the Antarctic Peninsula


Many of my most wondrous experiences were in an educational context. Seminars challenged my notions of who I was and what defined the world around me. When was the last time you joined a seminar or read a book that challenged your perceptions of self?

It amazes me that people will spend thousands of dollars studying something in college they don’t do now but won’t spend a few hundred dollars on their self-development. Check out programs like The Landmark Forum, or Tony Robbins’ Unleash the Power Within. It may not be for you, but everyone I know that has done them found them immense value.

Seek out interesting people

The old adage is true: we are who we surround ourselves with. Scientific research supports this. If you would like to be in awe, connect with those who are pushing the boundaries of what we do as a society, from AI and machine learning to theoretical astrophysics.. Discover the beauty, enormity and brilliance of the people and world around you.

Experiencing wonder can cause you to grow and see the world through new eyes. It may be rare, but following these tips will put the odds in your favor. For a deeper understand of the science and best practices to living a fun, exciting and wondrous life, pick up a copy of my book The 2 AM Principle: Discover the Science of Adventure.

Originally published at medium.com

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