The Need for Adventure

I am really happy to join my wife as we expand our practice.  The focus of my first series of blogs will be on the male journey of developing mental and emotional health.  I hope you enjoy…

Men need adventure. Adventure comes in many forms but it is in the male DNA to crave it. I have found that staying home with my two young children provides me with a form of adventure I would never have expected. We explore trails on our bikes, find new neighbors to play with, discover fruit trees around the neighborhoods, find various bugs and discover every park in existence within a 5 mile radius.

I have also found that I need my own age-appropriate level of adventure. It is something that my soul cries out for and, when I am truly in touch with the desires of my heart, it cries out to me clearly. This is why I have begun to bicycle up Mt. Diablo at least two times per week. The exertion required to climb up, as well as the thrill and sense of risk it provides to descend back down, meet this deep need for adventure. This need can be met in numerous ways but I have found that there are three key elements for maximizing the experience. These are exercise, being outdoors and the development of a skill.

1) Exercise is the most effective form of mood management around. Period. No negative side-effects, no withdrawal. When drug rehabilitation facilities look to change addicts one of the primary forms of treatment is exercise. (Socialization is right up there as well, and has it own form of adventure, but that is not the focus of this particular blog.) Exercise provides endorphins which are the drugs we are supposed to be “hooked” on as human beings. I am not endorsing an unhealthy addiction to exercise but I do find this problem to be much more rare than not exercising enough. Get hooked on endorphins.  It will lead you to being in great shape, feeling happier and feeling more fulfilled for the long-haul.

2) The outdoors is made to be our playground. The sun provides vitamin D, fresh oxygen fills our lungs and nature inspires us. This is a universal experience of humanity. I am not aware of anyone who fully immerses themselves in nature and says, “Eh, that TV show last night did more for me.” It’s just not how we are built as humans and particularly as men.

3) Skill development may be the single driving force for the majority of males. Whether it’s becoming a better salesman, a more effective therapist or perfecting our skills as a mechanic, men need to move forward in our ability to do effective work. Supporting a family and/or yourself through skill development is nobel work. It is also extremely important, as a man, to have an area of skill development that does not involve providing support for ourselves or our families. Skill development simply for the enjoyment of becoming better at something. Cycling, painting, playing guitar, fly fishing, working on old cars, the list is infinite. Just make sure it is done for the pure joy of doing it.

The ideal activities, that most effectively work towards changing the male experience from one of apathy and desperation to one of passion and adventure, would involve all three of these traits: exercise, the outdoors and skill development. Activities I have experienced at various times in my life that have met these traits include cycling, surfing, snowboarding, rock climbing and long-distance running. There are many more activities that hit all three of these key traits. The key is finding one that you personally love and sticking with it.

A word on mindfulness.  Another key to receiving the healing available in these activities is letting go of the need to compete, by learning to just enjoy the experience. Another word for this pure enjoyment of the experience, in the moment, is “mindfulness.” I have found, at times, that by doing activities alone, it allows me to be more mindful and prevents the tendency to compete.   This “alone time” does not guarantee mindfulness will happen but it can help. Doing these activities in groups, for example riding with a cycling club, provides healthy socialization opportunities, yet may also take you out of this mindful state.  A more in-depth exploration of “mindfulness”, however, is a topic for another blog at another time. In the meantime, find your activity and take the first step towards a life of passion!

Useful books that address this topic in more detail include: The Charge by Brendon Burchard and Wild at Heart by John Eldredge.