How Adventures Help You Grow

Everest is certainly high on the list of the world’s biggest, and possibly craziest, adventures. Despite the high stakes, many explorers have risked their lives to reach its peak.

George Mallory is speculated to be the first man to have climbed Everest but died on the descent. When he was asked why he wanted to climb Everest, he said:

The first question which you will ask and which I must try to answer is this, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ and my answer must at once be, ‘It is no use’ . . . if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life.

Mallory knew that adventures shape our lives in profound ways. They represent our struggle for life itself. And more importantly, give us a deep sense of joy and accomplishment.

Adventures are an incredibly powerful tool for self-development. Psychologist have found that they build everything from resilience to confidence. So, let’s look at why we should make an effort to hold onto that sense of adventure we had as children.

My Recipe for Adventure

First, let’s get on the same page with the ingredients for adventure. I think these are the crucial elements:

  • New experiences: that force us to look at a situation with beginner’s eyes.
  • Elements of unknown: adventures don’t always turn out well. There’s often risk and reward, challenges, obstacles, and unpredictability.
  • Change and growth: whether good or bad, adventures lead to change and growth.
  • Must be experienced: you can read about adventures. Your friends can tell you about theirs. But to grow from them, you have to take part in the story.

Adventures can be crazy Everest-like missions. Or they can be subtle introspective experiences. But they must push you to grow.

Now that we’ve defined adventure, let’s see how it can improve your life.

Builds Strength and Resilience

When you go through dangerous adventures like risking your life to climb a mountain, it won’t be all rainbows and unicorns. Shit’s going to hit the fan. But you’ll grow and become more resilient (if you don’t die, like Mallory). If you’re not the daredevil type, don’t worry. You don’t need high stakes to benefit from adventure.

A recent study put two groups of teenagers through a tough sailing voyage. The voyage was designed to push them and teach self-reliance. They were exposed to hard physical work, seasickness, bad weather, and cramped conditions. Researchers tested both groups resilience before and after the voyage by comparing them to a control group. The second group was also tested five months after the voyage. So, how did they do?

When compared to the control group, resilience of the two adventure groups that took the voyage was found to be significantly increased. The effect was also maintained five-months later.

The teenagers had essentially been put through a crash course in teamwork, practical skills, confidence, and self-reliance that built strength and resilience. The takeaway is this: resilience is like immunization. By exposing ourselves to it, we build it up and can increase the quality of our lives long term.

Learn to Be More Confident

Adventures also build confidence. When we take risks through adventures, we learn to believe in ourselves. Which could lead to asking for that raise or mustering up the courage to take that one big risk. 

It’s easy to tell ourselves we’re not confident. But we’re not born with all the traits we need to be a successful, fully functional human. Traits are like muscles, you need to stretch and work them to effect change. And because our lives don’t occur in silos, when we build confidence in one area, it has a rippling effect.

A good example is this study that put nurses through a non-traditional outdoor adventure leadership program. The nurses increased confidence and competence following the program. But the interesting part was how this had a positive effect on the entire organisation: 

RN residents at a Midwestern medical center represented only 17% of the nursing population but reshaped the culture of the entire organization by becoming dynamic ‘everyday’ leaders.

Like the teenagers on the voyage, the nurses had been put in a situation that demanded teamwork, practical skills, self-reliance, and many other positive traits. As a result, the nurse’s confidence in leadership helped them kick ass in their jobs.

So, getting involved in outdoor adventure activities could spill over into your professional life and make you a better leader. Maybe an adult scouts club is in order?

New Experiences

If you stop for a second and think about the things that truly make you happy in life, what comes to mind? Does your new iPhone really bring you joy or is it the contact and connection with friends that’s made easy? Or maybe it allows you to catch up with family across the other side of the world so you don’t feel so far from home.

When we buy things that make us feel good, what we’re really feeling good about is the experiences they give us. Your first house gives you independence and a place to lay down roots. The V8 with two fully sick subwoofers you drove as a teen gave you the rush of speed and the experience of owning a cool car. Still not sure about what the subwoofers added . . . but there was enough bass to shatter eardrums.

The experiences we have in life—the good and the bad—shape us. Researchers have found that they also directly affect our happiness:

Psychologist Rich Walker of Winston-Salem State University looked at 30,000 event memories and over 500 diaries, ranging from durations of 3 months to 4 years, and says that people who engage in a variety of experiences are more likely to retain positive emotions and minimize negative ones than people who have fewer experiences.

In other words, people who have a variety of experiences in life are likely to be happier. And when it comes to experiencing new things, adventures are king. The more we experience, the more we grow. We start to open our eyes to an infinitely wide world of possibilities.

The Adventure Challenge

Here’s a challenge for you to put this into action. Over the next two weeks commit to one adventure. It doesn’t need to be anything crazy. Start with something small, but make sure it gets you out of your comfort zone. Here are some ideas:

  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter.
  • Sign up for a fitness class that’s well outside of your comfort zone. How about adult gymnastics, parkour, or martial arts? The more it scares you the better.
  • Say yes to the next five things, no matter what they are.
  • Buy a ticket to the next Burning Man.
If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try.
— Seth Godin

Do Something—Anything!

Don’t just consume information. If you’ve read this far, I’m assuming you find this post useful. You’ve now got two choices: 1) close the screen and think ‘that’s nice’ and move on with your day. Or 2) take the above adventure challenge. Pick something you can start right away. And as Nike says, just do it! Decision creates action. Action creates results.

I Need Your Help

I’ve also got a huge favour to ask of you. No, I don’t want your money. But will happily accept it! I’m trying to get this blog off the ground and I can’t do it without your help. Simply sharing this post on social media (you’re so close to the share buttons—look down below) or emailing it to a friend makes a HUGE difference in my life. In return, I promise we can be best mates and you can reach out anytime. Seriously. If you need help with any health, fitness, or Jedi Knight goals you can contact me here.

You can also share some love by adding a comment below. Let me know what you’re going to tackle for your adventure challenge.

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