Here’s Patrick’s life:
He wakes up.
Does his routine (shower, eat, etc.).
Goes to work.
Goes to the gym (3 days a week).
Comes home and makes dinner.
Goes to sleep.
On the weekends, he gets a break. A walks to the park… A date with a girl… Maybe a visit to his parents.
And he wonders—can you believe it—why he feels “unfulfilled.”
Now, let’s be clear. There’s nothing wrong with this routine. I would not judge anyone’s lifestyle, and if the routing satisfies any individual or fulfills or supports all the parts of life that an individual feels are meaningful, that’s great.
But when a man tells me he feels unfulfilled and then explains the repetition in his world, it’s no big surprise to me.
“Where’s the adventure, man?!” I yell at him. Patrick nods, knowingly, but I can tell, he won’t do much about it…not without a push.
When one of the men in my Men’s Circle returned from Burning Man, he shared one of the variety of insights he gained during his week in the desert. The one he revealed seemed particularly interesting and relevant to other men’s challenges this week.
He said that every day there, while amazing and fascinating and intense, was also challenging and uncomfortable—that it was just about surviving, and at the end of the day, if he just got through it in one mental-physical piece and laid down to sleep, he was satisfied. Yeah, I thought… That could be life all the time.
But of course, when he returned to the city, he got lost again in the business of life. Like most of us, surviving—just getting through the day, eating enough, and finding a safe place to sleep—seems not enough to satisfy him.
He thinks he needs more, and when he doesn’t have more, he feels lack, disappointment, confused, and undervalued. This mindset, common to most of us in modern society, really takes the fun out of life. Doesn’t it?
What in the world are we doing with our lives? Human beings in our natural state once roamed the African savannahs. Our brains and bodies evolved in an era that didn’t have desks or computers or gyms or television or microwave dinners.
We gathered in small families or clans, we hunted together, bled together, learn to build fire, to create art, to explore new territories, to find adventure in every single day of an often short existence.
Adventure is part of our DNA. Not a day went by that fear and excitement didn’t course through our blood, forming our nervous systems, developing our brain chemistries.
The human mind-body was designed with primitive needs for adventure and exploration; when we neglect the core features that comprised our very evolution, we tend to feel lost, unfulfilled, and empty. Adventure is a key component—one of the few things that makes life worth living.
So many men are afraid to break out of their routine, though. The repetitive life is often comfy and safe, and they’ve forgotten what experiencing their raw, organic nature feels like.
They’ve forgotten what it’s like to enjoy being afraid… Adventure is inherently scary. Without fear, there is no risk; and without risk, there is no adventure.
So if you want adventure, you’ll have to be ready to be afraid. This may constitute building a different type of relationship with fear—looking at fear as a potentially positive feeling, rather than some “bad” or “wrong” feeling that you don’t ever want to feel.
The greatest adventurers are men that love feeling afraid, that thrive on it, that need it as fuel for life. And this doesn’t mean you have to be a dare devil or risk your life to feel fulfilled.
Going to a new city where you know no one can be scary. Hiking up 1000 steps of an ancient Temple can be thrilling. Fear in this sense is not the traditional indication of a threat; rather, fear is the basis and friend of excitement.
But What If You Don’t Have the Time or Money?
Anything Beyond Surviving Can and Ought to Be Fun
Alastair Humphreys has a plan for how the average person can live for the the 5 to 9, not the 9 to 5.
Humphreys won the 2012 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year for coming up with and promoting what he calls the ‘microadventure’– an overnight, outdoor adventure that you can embark on after work and be back in time to clock in the next day.
Try some of these microadventures suggested by worldtravelguide.net:
Ride a bus to the end of the line
Walk magnetic north until dusk
Follow a historical trail
Climb to the highest point in your area
Go to the highest level of an office building, and pick a spot to travel to
Catch a train to somewhere new and cycle back
The bottom line is: You’ve done it. You’ve survived this far, and you’re figuring it out every day, no matter how challenging or uncomfortable life gets. You’re eating and sleeping and waking up and persisting.
So pat yourself on the back, be proud of yourself. Now, how much fun are you having in life? When you camp or travel or get lost for a week in a burning desert, there is a deep satisfaction and FUN to the challenge of surviving.
So why not here in your normal life?
There is much scientific and practical evidence that suggests without excitement and adventure, life often feel stale, purposeless, and unfulfilled.
There are a whole variety of reasons this is true, but suffice to say that when you’re feeling unsatisfied, when you’re feeling trapped or stuck, it may be time to ask yourself: What’s my adventure level?
Get back to your natural self. Rediscover your inner explorer. Make time and dedicate yourself to finding the adventure in your world.
Or, you can stay safe and comfy in front of the TV. The choice is yours.