When I think of the word "adventurous," I think of people who I've known who will drop anything and everything to do what I consider highly foolish dangerous things: go trekking in the Amazon, for example. Or bungee jump. Or go on a shark dive. Or parasail.
For the record, I am not one of these people.
But over time, I've come to believe that an adventurous spirit is good for the soul. That it keeps you young. That it makes you feel alive. And so, about 20 years ago, I made a promise to myself that I would making an effort to try new things on a semi-periodic basis, just to push my limits and see what I was capable of doing.
Don't worry: I'm not likely to be strapping on a bungee cord anytime soon (though I will admit that I'm now a certified scuba diver!). But since simply changing my mindset to one which seeks out and embraces new opportunities and experiences, I'm now proud to be able to say:
- I learned how to use an SLR camera (the kind where you can switch lenses out)
- I moved to England by myself
- I quit my job with no discernible plan for the future
- I ate jellyfish
- I taught myself to juggle
Now, you might argue that none of these "skills" would necessarily be life-changing accomplishments (and truthfully, I'm still looking for an opportunity to show off my jellyfish-eating prowess), and to be honest, when I decided to do each of these things, I certainly didn't have any grandiose plans. But really, the results were never important to me: I didn't care if I actually got good at using a camera, or even juggling. The point, for me, was the trying. I think so often we get so caught up in the accomplishing, we forget what great merit and joy there is in just the trying. There's something to be said in claiming for yourself, "I'm the kind of person who would try eating a strange food/learning a new skill/experiencing a new thing." And if, in the process we actually succeed, well, honey, that's just gravy.
The other thing that I've found interesting is that adventure begets adventure -- it seems that the more I try something, the more I want to try other things. In fact, recently, I put together a life list -- 100 things I want to do before I go. I've had friends tell me that I'm crazy, there's no way that they could do anything like this for fear of not completing them all, but I think that mindset misses the point: the purpose of my list isn't to accomplish everything on it, it's merely a placeholder for things that I might want to try, you know?
In other words, I've come to strongly believe that life is about about living. As George Bernard Shaw said, "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." And I think one of the ways we can create ourselves is to go out and see what it is in life that might bring us joy. What it is that we don't yet know might light us up. What it is we might want to experience.
I think we owe this to ourselves, you know?
Anyway, recently, I had the opportunity to sit with Natalie, a good friend of mine who lives in New York City, but was in town visiting family. Natalie's got a great job: she produces documentary films for the Wildlife Conservation Society. Now, she is one of those adventurious people I was talking about, above: she used to be in the Peace Corps, and actually just recently returned from a work assignment in Afghanistan. The woman is fearless. And even though I don't think I'd have the guts to do half the things she has accomplished in her life, I love what she had to say about adventure:
Isn't she awesome?
And so this month, I thought we could give being more adventurous a whirl. I'm tempted to challenge you to create a life list, but I know for some people, this seems like a monumental step. Instead, I'll challenge you to do this:
With your list of things that light you up and your vision boards close by, think of one thing you'd like to try for the new year. Not accomplish, not master, just try. It could be tasting a new food, or trying a new skill, or experiencing a new experience. You can tell your friends, or you can keep it to yourself (I'm generally of the don't-tell-a-soul ilk myself, so I get it if you want to keep it a secret). But write it down and keep it somewhere close (near your list and your vision board would be ideal -- or, you know, your journal!).
And every now and then, think about it.
And if the mood hits, then do it.
I think you'll be surprised how awesome just the trying will make you feel.
And as always, if you'd like to share what you might want to try this year (eating oysters! hot air ballooning! cooking a new cuisine!), please feel free to leave it in the comments section, below.
Because if you share, you might just help the rest of us be more adventuresome, too.