Good’s Headcase columnist Dr Alice Boyes shares advice on how to find your spirit of adventure when life is busy
Words Dr Alice Boyes. Illustration by Janelle Barone from Makers MGMT
The word “adventure” brings to mind thrill-seeking activities like bungee jumping, but adventure is much broader than that. Being adventurous represents anything you do that pushes you outside your comfort zone.
Think about weekend activities, food, books, podcasts, recreational classes, restaurants, travel, even TV shows you wouldn’t usually choose but have an interest in. Adventure can mean spending time with people who have a completely different world view to you, or learning about another culture.
Balancing a busy life with challenging yourself
Sticking with the familiar is less exhausting. The key is to find your adventure sweet spot. When I travel I tend to return to places I already know and love, but I do try and do at least one new activity each trip, and mix it up by trying a new destination at least once or twice a year. What’s your ideal ratio of new-to-familiar? You might return to restaurant you love three out of four times you dine out, and on the fourth time try somewhere completely different.
What are your self-limiting thoughts?
Try completing the sentence, “I can only be adventurous when…” Whatever your answer, try coming up with reasons why this isn’t true. If your thought is, “I can only be adventurous with meals when my husband is away on business trips,” try thinking of other times or ways you could have more interesting meals. Do this for thoughts like, “I can only be adventurous when… I’m on holiday from work.”
The role of other people
Motivational speaker Jim Rohn argues that we are the average of the five people we spend most time with. Regardless of how strictly accurate this statement is, it’s still interesting to consider what we’d be like if it were true. Who are the five people you spend the most time with? How do they encourage or suppress your spirit of adventure? If you have someone close to you who suppresses your adventurous side in a particular way, skip any blaming and find practical ways to work around it. For example, if your spouse prefers plain food but you like spice, could you have foodie adventures with a friend, or stick to spicy meals at lunch times? Also ask yourself, “How can I support the spirit of adventure in those I’m closest to?”
The idea of emotional contagion is well supported by research – we tend to pick up on the emotions and behaviour of those around us. Whenever you do activities that involve a degree of challenge, you’ll encounter other people who are also interested in pushing themselves. This could involve signing up to a university paper, a tramping club or a book group. People who’ve organised themselves to attend something that requires effort are going to be more adventurous than those who are sitting at home on their sofas.
Create habits that keep you adventurous
One of my habits is trying to book my next trip before returning home from the current one. This means I always have some travel to look forward, and it helps me avoid post-trip blues. They aren’t necessarily fancy trips; they might just be a weekend road trip or a night at a national park. I make refundable reservations because it makes it easier to take the plunge and book, knowing I can cancel. However, because I’ve made a behavioural commitment, I tend not to cancel. This means I take more trips than I would otherwise and make decisions without overthinking them.
Being adventurous is often about taking advantage of a serendipitous moment
Let’s say you’ve been on the lookout for a tramping buddy, a wine-tasting accomplice or someone to share a passion your friends aren’t interested in. You meet someone casually and you hit it off. Do you send them a Facebook friend request? Or, you spot someone you don’t know well but have seen around the neighbourhood in a public setting. Do you pluck up the courage to say hello? Try making a pact with yourself that in these situations you’re going to make the adventurous choice.
Alice Boyes, PhD, is author of The Healthy Mind Toolkit and The Anxiety Toolkit.