This blog is written by Nick Costelloe (@nickcostelloe) who recently delivered a TEDx Talk on what comes next.

I was connected with Nick via a mutual friend (thanks Dan!) earlier this year and after a phone call, I knew that I had to do something to get Nick’s message out to a broader audience. His words found me at a pivotal time in 2020 and it changed the way that I looked at what has become a challenging year comprised of (what can feel like) restricted and mundane daily life. My hope is that Nick’s words will fall on ready ears and that his ideas will transform how you view adventure. To put it another way, this blog is about finding adventure, and as a result happiness, in all things.

Sit back, relax and let Nick take you on a ride!

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[Nick’s voice]

I have a feeling that almost everyone is thinking about adventure incorrectly.

To prove it, here’s one of my favorite adventure stories.

It’s 4.30 in the morning. Pitch black. The dim light from my headlamp is just bright enough to see Juma, who’s my mountain guide. We’re walking slowly through the darkness, up a very steep incline. My heart is pounding. My chest is heavy, but I remain focused on the goal: get to the top of this mountain. 

After another hour or so of climbing, Juma and I catch a glimpse of the summit and look at each other. With a burst of adrenaline, we race to this large wooden sign, which I had been envisioning for years: “Mount Kilimanjaro summit — 19,341 feet.” Taking it in for a moment, on top of the highest peak in Africa, I thought about what we’d accomplished. We climbed a mountain. What an adventure.

The problem with adventure

When I say the word adventure, what comes to mind? Maybe climbing mountains, jumping out of airplanes, or going on expeditions deep in the wilderness. And that makes sense. In fact, Webster dictionary defines adventure as, “an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks.” But there’s a problem with this definition. Most people feel that adventure is unattainable. It’s something that’s reserved for people who explore the most remote corners of the world. Not meant for people who work 9-5 jobs or those who are in school full time—it’s out of reach. When we’re lucky enough to take vacation time to adventure, our experiences feel rushed and fleeting.

Adopting this definition forces many of us to distance ourselves from adventure altogether.

Now here’s another story, much closer to home.

Last summer, my friends and I joined a volleyball league. For context, we’ve hardly ever played volleyball. We simply thought it would be something fun to do after work. But here’s the thing: it was the most fun experience of my summer. Each week, I’d meet up with a group of friends on the beach. What I loved most: we’d laugh, get a bit of a workout in, and learn a new sport together. I thought about the volleyball league for a while, and I realized—I loved the experience because it felt like an adventure. How could that be? I wasn’t far from home and I surely wasn’t risking my life. So why did playing in this volleyball league feel like an adventure?

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Rethinking adventure

After carefully studying my feelings, I discovered that there are three qualities that define every adventure, big or small:

  1. Being present in the moment.
  2. Being excited.
  3. Being open to new experiences.

Playing in a volleyball league in New Jersey appears to have nothing in common with trekking Mt Kilimanjaro. But when you think about it, you don’t need to be traveling overseas or climbing mountains to feel adventurous. In fact, the qualities of adventure (present, excited, and open) are very much achievable in our daily lives. 

Stop.

At this point you might be asking yourself, why should I even care about being more adventurous?

Well, take one more look at the qualities that define an adventure: present, excited, and open—all three are necessary in order to live a happy and fulfilling life. And there’s data to prove it. In a recent University of Chicago study, only 14% of adults reported that they’re very happy. That’s a 5-decade low. Some of the reasons for unhappiness found across many studies? Regret, boredom, and monotony. But I have good news for you: we can all add adventure to our lives, every single day. And the qualities of adventure directly fight against the unhappiness caused by regret, boredom, and monotony.

“If happiness is the goal – and it should be, then adventures should be top priority.”

Richard Branson

See, adventure is the missing ingredient that can make us happier.

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How to become more adventurous

Here’s a simple two step process:

  1. First, change the definition of adventure.
  2. Then, adopt an adventurous mindset.

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Changing the definition

As it turns out, Webster has a second, lesser-known definition of adventure. That is, “an exciting or remarkable experience.”

When put this way, I can think of countless examples of adventures:

  • Climbing mountains, yes.
  • But also joining new sports leagues.
  • How about leaving your current job to try something new or start your own business?
  • Or simply picking up a new hobby, like learning to play an instrument?

If we consciously accept this updated definition, adventure is no longer reserved solely for those who wish to free dive with Great White Sharks in South Africa (although I have to admit, that’s on my bucket list).

Adventure becomes attainable for everyone.

Adopt an adventurous mindset

Now it’s one thing to change your definition of adventure. It’s another to actually feel adventurous in our daily lives.

Because, after all, it’s not easy to view something like learning to play the guitar in the same way we view skydiving—there’s a physiological response to apparent danger that’s impossible to replicate in most day to day situations.

That’s why we need to adopt an adventurous mindset.

An adventurous mindset is an attitude in which we view our experiences through the lens of adventure. That is, we’re present, excited, and open to all of our experiences.

And here’s how you can adopt the mindset:

Start by seeking out adventures. Don’t shy away from new experiences, people, or places. Challenge yourself to do one thing each week that you’ve never done before. Then make adventure a habit. If you build a consistent habit of adventure, you’ll start to view everything you do in a new and exciting way.

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[Joe’s voice]

It’s me again.

I’m not sure about you, but Nick has a unique and incredible perspective on adventure. He makes it feel attainable and important for everyone. The best part about it all is that he lives it out. Nick is the founder of Universal Dialect, an organization centered around adventure and focused on providing adventure (in the form of soccer balls) to people around the world who don’t have much. On top of that, Nick is an incredible human being and I’m sure that we would be happy to connect with anyone reading this. Feel free to reach out to him on Instagram or Twitter.

“And then there is the most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want, on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.”

Randy Komisar

Thanks for reading!

Joe Rinaldi, PT, DPT

IG: @joerinaldi.dpt

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