Is Adventure the drug of choice for 2014?
Does adventure have to come from the outside?
Every day we are bombarded by a ‘wow!’ opportunity to add more adventure to our lives. The exhilaration of sky diving, the resilience test and personal challenge of a climbing expedition, the elation from completing a dramatic assault course: the list goes on.
But why have these types of adventures become so popular and why are so many senior executives in the corporate world joining in? It's admirable, but isn’t there a less dramatic way to find adventure…. within yourself?
From my experience as a firefighter facing danger and overcoming my own fears, I know the feeling of accomplishment that comes with pushing yourself beyond your perceived limits. I get it.
But is all this external adventure-seeking the only answer? I’ve worked with and coached thousands of top performing executives, leaders and business professionals and many of them aren’t truly clear about “why” they are seeking a dangerous adventure.In the absence of this awareness, I’ve seen them take unnecessary risks, suffer personal injuries and be left with a depressing emptiness. I resolved that next time a high-performer contemplated an ‘adventure challenge’, I’d ask them to be clear about what they want to get out of it.
When we peel back the layers, the common reasons 'high-performing' senior executives in particular want to participate in an ‘adventure’ are:
·I want to get out of my current rut
·I want to prove to myself that I’m not lazy
·I want to overcome my biggest fears
·I want to see how great I can be
… all noble reasons for doing something significant, stepping out of your comfort zone, and taking on a new challenge. But when we dig deeper, what many thrill-seekers have missed is that there are endless simple, safe, and life-changing ways to achieve these benefits without taking an adventure challenge.
Take ‘Mary’, a 46-year old Senior VP of a Fortune 500 company, who wanted to climb the Matterhorn: a great goal that not many people can say they have achieved. It requires exceptional aerobic fitness, concentration, stamina, and courage. It is also one of the deadliest peaks in the Alps, and can mean that the sacrifice is an ultimate one.
As Mary and I took apart her “why”, she realized that she had never stuck to any exercise programme for more than 30 days. For that matter, she had never stuck to any personal development goal for any significant time. In her mind, climbing the Matterhorn would require a continual sustained commitment. Trying to help Mary achieve all of her goals and yet stay alive for her team, her family, and herself, we worked backwards.
I asked her:
“Who will you be, if you achieve your goal of climbing the Matterhorn?”
“How would others perceive you if you achieve your goal?”
She replied: “I would be a person who could fully commit to a challenge, even if it requires sustained effort. I would be confident in myself, and my ability to fight the long fight. I would be full of vitality and energy, and I would inspire others. Others would perceive me as a true leader. “
I asked her: “What if you already are this person?” She looked at me with fear. The truth is that Mary’s real fear was how great she already may be.Knowing this, she posted her image of who she would be after this challenge on her desk at work, above her treadmill at home, and in her bathroom on her mirror. After 6 months of doing regular 30-minute hill climbing treadmill sessions, visualizing herself as the person she wanted to be, and making several other small consistent changes that would ensure sustainable high performance, Mary was a new person – literally.
Today, she leads a team of innovators with confidence, inspires everyone around her, weighs 12kg less and has strong, meaningful relationships with her husband and sons. I’m not judging whether Mary should have climbed the Matterhorn or not. My point is that sometimes the greatest adventure is digging deep inside yourself and becoming your best self. That really does take courage.