The evolutionary nature of adventure

A Call to Arms

Sue Hughes, Nevada Passage athlete, on the Flume Trail.

Sue Hughes, Nevada Passage athlete, on the Flume Trail.

Courtesy Of Nevada Commission on Tourism

It has been said that the person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, becomes nothing and is nothing. Indeed, the evolutionary process is dependent on this theme. Only the person who can take the risk to change and grow continues upward in the evolutionary spiral.

Although an accepted fact in the grand evolutionary scheme, is it possible that this process is also applicable to individual evolution and on a more applied level, to personal and professional growth as well?

When we take a retrospective of our lives so far, most of us can see that our truly memorable moments have been punctuated by periods of great adventure. And adventure, according to the Random House Dictionary is “1. an undertaking involving risk or excitement. 2. an exciting or remarkable experience”. Indeed, the most indelible moments in our memories can often be described as remarkable, having elements of both risk and excitement. Keeping that in mind, it seems fair to say that adventure is a necessity for our own continued evolution and growth.

Since it seems so healthy and a prerequisite for personal and professional growth, you would think we would all be chomping at the bit to experience the magical elixir of adventure. “Not so” scream the bastians of vicarious adventure provided by the movie and television industries. There are a great many people who eschew adventure in their lives by watching safely from the wings of their couches and barcaloungers. They feed their desire for adventure by observing others adventuring on the small and big screen. But why not get the real thing?

Real adventures require a high price to be paid, that is why. Uncertain outcomes, always an element of adventure, put the adventurer at risk. How much risk? At the introductory end of the scale the adventurer will at least pay for their adventure with the discomfort associated with the trying of new things such as sweaty palms, a dry mouth and an uncertain feeling in the pit of one’s stomach. All clear indications of an emotional state which can be described as fearful or as full of anxiety. At the other end of the scale, adventurers like the crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger have paid with their very lives.

No matter how you cut it, there is a price to be paid for any real adventure, and the price to be paid is not always clear at the onset of an adventure. Good enough reason to retreat to the couch perhaps. But with adventure reduced to the diluted emotions generated by the watching of others in a professional sporting event or peeping into the lives of desperate housewives we must ask ourselves “Is vicarious adventure enough?” Many of us in the Truckee Meadows would respond with a resounding and resolute “NO”. Ask the active Nevadans in the Truckee Meadows why they live here under the shadow of the Eastern escarpment of the Sierra Nevada and they will respond quite simply, “the mountains”. Many of us are involved in adventure sports like biking, hiking, backpacking, climbing, boating, skiing and golfing which take great advantage of the natural wonders of our local mountains. Some of the more hardcore enthusiasts will wax on simi-obsessively that “skiing (fill in the sport of your choice here) isn’t just a part of their lifestyle, skiing is life, with style just an option.”

Between the die-hard adventurers and those who swear off all active pursuits lie the bulk of the population. To those I admonish get out there while you still can before its too late. No body has ever been overheard on their death bed wishing they had led a safer, more controlled, more mundane and meaningless life.

Every morning grants you a new opportunity to challenge yourself and become better because of the adventures you chose to embrace in your life. Pushing your limits is a healthy prerequisite for change, for growth. The deep yearning for adventure and excitement seems to be an integral part of who we all are, both individually and as a species.

The healthy alternative? There is none. As Helen Keller stated so eloquently “Life is either an adventure or nothing at all.”

By Dr. Michael Selby

Dr. Michael Selby is the President of Project Discovery, a full service Experiential Training Program Provider.