“Just Keep Exploring” is the thought (inspiration?) that came to mind when looking for an answer to this creeping feeling of overwhelm. How does having an adventurous outlook help when the daily news is filled with fresh horrors? Daily updates on natural disasters becoming extreme – giga fires and repeated hurricanes. The plague – aka COVID-19, which at this point you have either contracted or know someone who has (and my deepest sympathies in either case). A country divided, filled with so much rhetoric it’s a challenge to feel the good things like “love thy neighbor” (no matter their political leanings or ethnic background or sexual orientation).
I don’t know about you, but I have times where I feel like I want to be an ostrich and hide my head in the sand to avoid “it all.” Or I get overwhelmed and the image of grasping at straws to prevent drowning comes to my mind. In the last several months, I ask myself – if an Adventure Mindset is supposed to help you with change, with being resilient, how is it helping when there is so much negative out there in the world?
An Adventure Mindset
While I’ve been developing my adventurous outlook for over ten years, you may not know what it could do for you. Research has shown that we need adventure in our lives. How do you define Adventure? (Check out “The Definition of Adventure” for inspirations.) I see adventure as a mindset, and I’d like to help you see this too.
Adventure can help you:
- Rediscover your inner explorer that comes from discovering small, positive changes in routines
- Foster your creativity, even when you first believe you don’t have any talent
- Sharpen your ability to think on your feet
- Develop resiliency, helping you to bounce back faster
- Teach you how to turn stress into joy and overreaction into positive actions
- Empower you to be okay with taking risks, making mistakes, and learning from failures
The Power of Play
Years ago I came across the promise of ‘learning to play and fun in life’. Play? We are adults, we have responsibilities now. The mantra of work to be a success, or seeing work as your fun, has become a cultural phenomenon that has even resulted in children getting less recess! The more I explore the science behind play the more I realize why it’s important. It’s a key element to an adventure outlook. Play helps children, and adults, learn with wonder and joy. To take risks and try new things while having fun. Laughter is medicine. During these last few months of “stay home” because of the ever-spreading virus, play has become a tool for stress-relief.
When you play, you are in the moment. Play can help you forget (even temporarily) to worry about the future. You create. It opens you up to the magic of wonder again. You move around and positive thoughts flood your brain. Finding ways to play has been one of my coping tools for offsetting all the depressing news. What kinds of play have you tried? Or will try?
While I’ve always considered myself resilient, it has been relatively recent that I understood how adventure and play help me deal with the hard things in life. A rough conversation with someone could upset my whole day, with replays running overtaking my thoughts all day. Or an event not turning out the way I thought it “should” could ruin my mood. Adventure has taught me to let go of outcomes. Being my true self means understanding I do the best I can, even while having rough conversations. I choose whether the unexpected outcomes make me feel terrible or feel I can learn from them and move on. Adventure has taught me how to bounce back faster from challenges.
Being resilient means you are able to not just survive changes, but use them to thrive. I’m not saying that challenges are easy-peasy, just that you learn how to shift your view just enough to come out on top.
Who Defines Normal?
Recently I read an article discussing the phrase “the new normal.” The point of the article was that life is ever-changing, and so are cultural standards – or “norms.” There is no “new” normal because what is defined as the norm changes, or is seen differently by different people. This discussion reminded me of a lesson I learned years ago when I was bemoaning my childhood and that teen angst of not fitting in. For much of my young adult life, I wanted to “fit in” and be “normal” (instead of being my unique, wonderfully quirky self). The question was asked, “Who defines normal?” The answer that helped me was “Why not me?” You define it as you see it, and I will define it for my life. And, as these things go – normal will evolve anyway.
During these trying COVID-19 pandemic times, who defines what is the normal to get back to? So many of us fear the changes that a pandemic brings. As Brené Brown said in her podcast – this is our FFT (‘eFfing First Time’) with a pandemic.
FFT Flying in a Pandemic
Recently I flew across the USA. I’ve been flying for years, and know what to expect as that past “normal.” Long lines at the TSA, crowded seats, and airline food. Who remembers flying in the days before TSA was even a thing? The normal now includes having a passport as an ID within the USA (until all the drivers’ licenses are updated); having a mask on (covering your nose and mouth, please – or possibly get taken off the flight); declare or prove you don’t have the virus; not getting meals on the flight (to remove the possibility of too many masks removed in an enclosed environment); and having the flight be not full and lots of space around your seat.
Admittedly, these changes still made flying a fear-filled event. To lessen the effects of fear, I prepared (brought my own snacks, lots of wipes and hand sanitizer, plus took a COVID test to ensure I at least started the trip virus-free). I also decided to be playful. I bought a face shield that looks like a one-eyed blue monster. For me, it was one more layer of protection. For others? One flight attendant thanked me for bringing joy into her day – a much-needed laugh. Her statement is the one I held onto if I ever thought someone was giving me “the eye” for not being their definition of “normal.”
Just Keep Exploring
Looking back over the months of “stay home” and the unknown future of similar orders for health safety, it’s easy to see how numbing the whole situation has become. The desire for seeing people and connecting again is a hard urge to deny. Wanting to be an ostrich and dig one’s head in the sand to avoid all the bad news is a strong craving (hence, the boom of alcohol and cannabis sales, and the further growth of the opioid abuse).
Over the past 6+ months, I kept trying new things, or familiar things differently. I did my best to explore my options that keep me changing with the on-going times. Sometimes I found joy and fun. I giggle over my gaggle of geese by calling them my co-workers I chat with over the water cooler. I tried Facebook Lives to connect to others and gave it up when I felt it was right. I’m trying new things with the members of the Adventure Wednesdays Explorer Group to encourage them to try small adventures. I can only wonder if this will be a success or another learning risk. Instead of weeping and pretending I’m some kind of victim of my circumstances, I rely on an adventurous attitude and discover ways back to inner joy.
The best advice I can offer you to survive or thrive in these on-going challenging times? Just Keep Exploring.