Alarm goes off at 3am, but you haven’t slept a wink. Instead, up all-night stewing in anxiety: running over the plan, the what-ifs, and obsessively ensuring you have everything you need.
Or maybe your car broke down in Mexico, far from anywhere. Forcing you to walk miles in the heat. Barefoot.
Possibly you have been deep in the Alaskan wilderness and lost your sleeping bag to the wind.
Or maybe you know someone whose face was sliced open by their board - the ambulances, stitches, surgeries, and a scared daughter.
I am sure you have been out of water, but with miles to go. Or gone over the handlebars. Or face planted into deep powder left to flail, panic and grasp for breath.
And you probably have had broken ribs. Burning lungs. Sore legs. Worry. Fear. And Doubt.
Why the hell do we do these things? Why do we endure these hardships? And why do we come back to them - again and again? Our adventures and athletic pursuits have such a strong hold on us. So strong that we are willing to risk, undergo and sacrifice so much.
Sure, we do it to find our flow. For the thrill of it. The joy of it. To thrive. To get to the top. To glide across a clean face. To flow effortlessly through a pristine single track. For fresh tracks.
Any peak experience will keep us coming back. No doubt.
And sure, being outdoors in nature is powerful medicine. It brings us tranquility and humility. But why do we push limits, explore further, go deeper?
It is not a conquest of the mountain. Of the trail. Of the waters. The best adventures are a conquest of ourselves. We use these profound experiences, whether a novice or a veteran, to grow. To expand. To be better versions of ourselves.
Esther Perel, the popular psychologist, says,
“We all straddle two fundamental human needs in life. Our need for security and safety, stability and predictability. And our need for freedom, for adventure, for exploration, for discovery, for curiosity.”
There seems to be great tension between these two needs. When we adventure and explore, we are abandoning security and safety. In other words, adventure is a threat to safety. But, in reality, when our basic needs in life are met, we then have the foundation and ability to launch ourselves into uncertainty and grow. When we have solid footing, we can spring forward. With confidence, we can take risks.
And why do we leave predictability behind? Well, in psychological speak, to self-actualize. To be all that we can be. To be our best selves. Or to paraphrase another popular psychologist, Scott Barry Kaufman, we strive for self-actualization because that is when all the best aspects of ourselves are fully developed, and all our potential is fully expressed.
We continually seek improvement through the unknown, rather than seeking achievement in a fixed state. If we live in the confines of our comfort, we become fearful and anxious. Because fear and anxiety are maintained through avoidance. Confronting fear directly and persevering in the face of adversity is the path to well-being and contentment. A life of comfort doesn’t test us. It doesn’t expand us. It keeps us stuck, as a slave to inertia. And the familiar is limiting.
Stagnant water quickly becomes dangerous.
When we leave our comfort zones. When we push and venture out into the unknown, we get out of our heads, out of ourselves. We gain perspective. We get a big old attitude adjustment. We return humbled with a quieted ego; thus, more empathetic. We return energized and happier. We understand ourselves, our limits and capabilities better. We become more confident, because we learn to trust ourselves. Knowing that we have what it takes to get through the bumps, through the adversity, and anything that is thrown at us.
We try new things and push through adversity because we have an innate drive to expand. To self-actualize. The thrill, the joy, the exhilaration that comes with it, well those are rewards, perks for pushing ourselves.
True freedom is, according to the great Victor Frankl, is accepting that we cannot control the circumstances. We can only control how we react and respond. Adventuring and exploring force us to embrace this wisdom.
When we brave the unknown, we are forced to handle whatever is thrown our way. We push and move forward. And when we do, we grow, we expand, and we crush anxiety and self-doubt. If we don’t put ourselves out there, those negative feelings prevail.
So get out there, beyond the fear horizon, and thrive!
By: Lucas Heldfond
Co-Founder of Flume.