“Life Is Adventure, Not Predicament.” – (James Broughton)
Stuff happens. What happens is neither good nor bad. It merely IS. But we, in our attempt to understand everything, stick labels on things. We call things big or small, hot or cold, smooth or rough. These descriptive words can help, but where we go astray is when we label things as ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ These two words (and other negative and positive words) do not describe reality; they merely describe how we FEEL at the moment.
For instance, let’s say it is raining and the sky is grey. Suppose a friend calls from another city and asks me what the weather is like. If I were to answer, “The weather is lousy,” that does not describe what is happening outside (the weather), but what is happening inside (my feelings). We cannot master life until we master how we describe it, for the words we use determine how we feel. Does it make sense to describe a rainy day as ‘lousy’? Why would I want to feel bad?
Suppose I had answered my friend’s question differently. If I had stuck to the facts and said, “It is raining and the sky is grey,” then I would have been detached from the events (rain and grey sky) and free to go on enjoying life. The way we see things is not based on reality but, on a choice we make. Why not choose to see things pragmatically. That is, pick a viewpoint that works for you, empowers you. Why spend time choosing a viewpoint that works against you and prevents you from getting the most out of life?
Suppose you lived at the foot of a mountain. Would you see the mountain as a glorious opportunity for adventure by conquering it and yourself? Or would you see it as requiring too much effort to scale and just an inconvenient barrier? I believe the perspective of G. K. Chesterton is the correct one, “An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.”
A mountain is whatever we say it is, inconvenience or adventure. So it is with life. The choice of how we look at it is a switch that fills our lives with light or darkness. Why is it that many people still don’t realize that it is THEIR FINGER that is on the switch? I choose to see life as a magnificent adventure, not a struggle that I have to put up with. As a result, I have known and continue to experience many adventures,
Today, many of us work with computers. Although I love computers, every now and then something goes wrong, such as misplacing a file. But when something goes amiss, it is not because the computer doesn’t like me or life is unfair, but because I did something wrong. I try to learn from my mistake and avoid making similar errors again. I’m sure you behave in the same way.
Yet, when it comes to managing the greatest computer of all (our brain and mind), many act differently. When they get bad results, rather than trying to learn what they did incorrectly, they search for scapegoats. Instead of seeking solutions they search for excuses.
Many computer users are familiar with the term GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out), which simply means that the results we get are only as good as the input. The same is true for the computer that controls ourlives (our brain and mind). If we put garbage in our mind (negative thoughts), the output will be garbage (an unhappy life).
It is essential that we clearly understand the relationship between our thoughts and the life we experience. If I insist on dwelling on negative thoughts, I will feel negative, which will lead to negative behavior, which in turn will bring about negative results. Of course, when I choose to focus on the positive, the opposite happens. In a word, what I choose to think about acts as a switch that either opens the blinds, flooding my life with light, or closes the blinds, shutting out the light.
Since we have a choice, doesn’t it make sense to look at life as an exciting adventure? Many have already done so, and here are two examples:
1. “Never forget that life can only be nobly inspired and rightly lived if you take it bravely and gallantly, as a splendid adventure in which you are setting out into an unknown country, to meet many a joy, to find many a comrade, to win and lose many a battle.” (Annie Besant)
2. “What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for.” (George Leigh Mallory).
Before we can make the right choices, we have to be aware of our choices. The great writer Joseph Epstein contrasts what we can and cannot choose:
“All men and women are born, live, suffer and die; what distinguishes us one from another is our dreams, whether they be dreams about worldly or unworldly things, and what we do to make them come about… We do not choose to be born. We do not choose our parents. We do not choose our historical epoch, the country of our birth, or the immediate circumstances of our upbringing. We do not, most of us, choose to die; nor do we choose the time and conditions of our death. But within this realm of choicelessness, WE DO CHOOSE HOW WE LIVE.”
Adventure is the champagne of life. Like champagne, make your life sparkle. But what of those who have not yet discovered that life is an adventure? What can they do to bring themselves closer to this empowering point of view? Developing the curiosity, courage, and commitment of a child would help.
Children are filled with insatiable curiosity. Each step they take is a step into the unknown. What will they discover next? What will they encounter around the corner? They lead the life of an adventurer and explorer. They don’t understand the meaning of ‘boring.’ You were once that child and you have the right to reclaim that inquisitive spirit.
It’s not hard to do so. Start by shifting your attention away from that empty, banal chatter that clutters your mind and focus on what is happening around you now. What do you hear? Can you tune in on something enchanting or fascinating? Be curious. Search for it. Find it.
Do the same with your other senses. For instance, how many of the surrounding odors, aromas, or fragrances can you identify? How many of them were you ignoring or overlooking? Let’s try the other senses. What about touch? Can you feel the warmth or coolness of your environment? Where do you feel it most?
How about taste? Lick your lips. How do they taste? Why do they taste that way? Is it because of something you ate or drank or because of the environment (the rain or a sea breeze)? Look around you. What do you see that is interesting or different? These exercises help to draw us out of the fantasy world of our imagination and replant us in reality. How can we enjoy life if we are unaware of its presence?
Also, be curious about your own mind. Explore it. Rather than ignoring the chatter of your mind, observe it. What are you usually thinking about? Are your thoughts helpful or harmful? If harmful, what thoughts should you replace them with?
Because every step a child takes is a step into the unknown, it takes great courage to continue on its journey of discovery. Courage is the second trait of a child that we need to reclaim. For without it, our journey may come to an abrupt halt. Johann Friedrich Von Schiller put it well, “Who dares nothing, need hope for nothing.”
Here are two more lessons about courage:
1. “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” (Anais Nin)
2. “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” (T. S. Eliot)
As young children explore their world, they may slip, stumble, or stagger, but if they fall, they simply pick themselves up and go on again. This is the third characteristic of children that we need to reclaim, commitment. Those who are committed, never give up. Their mindset doesn’t allow it. To them, there is no such thing as failure, only lessons to be learned. Of course, we are free to ignore our lessons and drop out of life’s school, but at what price?
Within you is a bud waiting to blossom. It is a little child with curiosity, courage, and commitment that is eager to participate in the adventure we call life. Are you willing to embrace that child, take it by the hand, and join it on its remarkable journey?
Is life an adventure or a misadventure? The question is an important one because the view we take colors everything we experience. Our attitude or perspective either works for or against us. So, now and then we need to pause and examine which way our life is heading. After all, if we don’t change our direction, we will end up where we are heading.
If we believe life is a misadventure or struggle, we live with resentment, distrust, and fear. We also feel that life is unfair, painful, and a form of punishment. Yet, our view of life is a choice we make. If we don’t like what we see, we can change channels just the way we do on a TV set. Are you getting tired of seeing nothing but violence and suffering? Well, then, change channels! For a delightful change, take a look at all the good that is taking place in the world.
Remember that you can always choose what you decide to focus on. When we shift our focus from the negative to the positive, we begin to see the world in a new way. This change of perspective causes us to act differently. And by acting differently, life itself becomes different for us.
The secret of life is realizing that it is a great adventure. Missing this simple point can have disastrous effects. For example, imagine you and a stranger are strapped into a roller coaster. The stranger was plucked out of a primitive society and knows nothing about modern life. At the end of the ride, how will his experience differ from yours? In his eyes, the ride was a devilish form of torture. During the entire trip he was bewildered and in fear. And you? You enjoyed every thrilling moment!
Can you see how the failure to understand the nature of a roller coaster prevented the primitive native from enjoying the ride? It is no different with life. Those who have yet to learn that life is an adventure mistakenly believe they are victims of circumstances, condemned to a life of suffering.
Yet, once we understand the nature of life, everything changes. Can a roller coaster ride be exciting without steep falls and sharp twists and turns? Neither can life be exhilarating unless there are challenges to face, hurdles to surmount, and problems to solve. Adventurers understand that, so they don’t fight and struggle with events, but choose to go with the flow. True, the flow may be as turbulent as white-water rafting, but isn’t that part of the adventure?
Life invites us to become adventurers. It invites us to stop whining and start shinning, to stop being a victim and start being a victor. It invites us to journey on a quest to discover, uncover, and recover our potential. It invites us to become the hero in our life story by living courageously. It invites us to lead powerful lives in which we make a difference by contributing and adding to life.
Life is not a war to wage, but a gift to cherish. We will realize this as soon as we change our focus from what we lack to what we have. Our feeling of gratitude and sense of appreciation releases energy, which will then help us to continue tirelessly on our adventure.
Adventurers don’t repress or hide their emotions. Like rainbows, they burst into color as they feel and express a full range of emotions. Fear, anger, disgust, joy, pity, loneliness, surprise, elation, enthusiasm, passion, embarrassment, pain, sorrow, happiness, awe, calmness, and confusion are just a few of the emotions they experience. Unlike the numbness of the living dead, adventurers are alive with vibrant feelings. They feel life, soak it in, sense it, taste it, and fully express it.
Another characteristic of adventurers is their willingness to embrace change and uncertainty. And why shouldn’t they? For change and uncertainty are just other words for surprise. No wonder adventurers believe life is a celebration; after all, they spend their entire lives in a surprise party. They love dealing with the unexpected because it keeps them on their toes. Our lives don’t have to be boring; they can be as exciting as that of any adventurer. All we have to do is accept life’s offer; it’s asking us to jump in and join in the fun. “The Big Question is,” according to Joseph Campbell, “whether you are going to be able to say a hearty YES to your adventure.”
If we’re just neophyte wayfarers wanting to become heroic adventurers, how do we get from where we are to where we want to be? The best way to begin is with an inspiring dream. Pick a dream that is worthy of a hero. For as renaissance man Robert Fritz wrote, “If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is compromise.” When we live life as an adventure, our destination isn’t as important as the transformation we undergo, so don’t worry about whether you become entirely successful or not.
Another thing you can do is open your eyes and see. See what? See what Jawaharlal Nehru spoke about, “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” Every crossroad we come to is a choice between following the path of adventure or the road to mediocrity. Which will it be? As long as we awaken from our slumber, and look for the right path, we will find it. When we open our hearts, minds, and eyes to what the world offers, we allow it to flood us with riches, so remain alert.
Also, to sustain our adventure, we need to make the right choices. For when we don’t choose to befriend others, we choose to be lonely. When we don’t choose to open our hearts to others, we choose to get nothing in return and turn our backs on opportunity. When we don’t choose to elevate our thoughts, we contaminate our minds with stinking thinking. And if we don’t choose to live in the present, we relinquish the only moment we are alive and have power.
You can add a great deal of pleasure to the adventure of life with some humor. For example, the renowned radiocomicFred A. Allen had this to say, “Life, in my estimation, is a biological misadventure that we terminate on the shoulders of six strange men whose only objective is to make a hole in one with you.”
Additional Points to Ponder
1. Ask Questions
A critical part of the mindset of adventurers is curiosity. Because they are curious, they ask questions. That’s why they spend twice as much time considering their thoughts, for they pose questions to themselves and then seek to answer them.
Questions are empowering as their answers help us to solve problems and to advance. Since questioners are on a quest, they find life exciting. And when they find the answers they are looking for, they find life all the more enjoyable. There are no foolish questions. But there are fools. They are the ones who never ask questions.
Well, then, what sort of questions should we be asking ourselves? For starters, here are three important questions: What do I want? What is preventing me from getting what I want? What will I do to remove or overcome the obstacle or obstacles blocking my way?
The renowned author of ‘‘As a Man Thinketh,’’ James Allen, adds “For true success ask yourself these four questions: Why? Why not? Why not me? Why not now?”
A Jewish sage poses three powerful questions: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” (Pirkei Avot 1:14)
Scholar Joseph Campbell posed one question: “The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure (life).”
Now that you have the idea, here are some more helpful questions to ask ourselves: What do I know today, that I did not know yesterday? Will what I am doing now bring me closer to my dreams? What can I do now? What SHOULD I do now?
What can I dedicate my life to? How can I infuse my life with meaning? What cause can I live for? How do I spend my time? Am I contributing to life?
What am I doing wrong? What can I learn from my mistakes? What should I avoid doing? What do I need to do more often? Am I going to make the most of this opportunity (life)?
2. Life and death
“Somebody ought to tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit every minute of every day. Do it, I say, whatever you want to do, do it now.” (Michael Landon)
“Death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives.” (Alan Sachs)
“Look, I really don’t want to wax philosophic, but I will say that if you’re alive, you’ve got to flap your arms and legs, you’ve got to jump around a lot, you’ve got to make a lot of noise, because life is the very opposite of death.” (Mel Brooks)
“The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it.”
3. The Gateway to Adventure is Stepping out of Your Comfort Zone and Facing your Fears. I’m sure you can relate to this paragraph taken from Richard Bach‘s book, A Gift of Wings,
“Remember the high board at the swimming pool? After days of looking up at it you finally climbed the wet steps to the platform. From there, it was higher than ever. There were only two ways down: the steps to defeat of the dive to victory. You stood on the edge, shivering in the hot sun, deathly afraid. At last you leaned too far forward, it was too late for retreat, and you dived. The high board was conquered, and you spent the rest of the day diving. Climbing a thousand high boards, we demolish fear, and turn into human beings.”
If what you are trying to do is not outside your comfort zone, it’s not an adventure. I’ll end with a quote from an unknown author, “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming – “WOW – What a Ride!”
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