What is the point of adventure outside of the experience itself?
And what impact does it have on the rest of our lives?
In this solo episode, host and psychologist, Nicki Bass, explores the wider benefits of adventures, reflecting on how they can support us in many aspects of our lives including our careers, relationships and mental wellbeing.
Adventures help us to:
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NICKI: 00:00 Hello and welcome to the Everyday Adventure Podcast. My name is Nicki Bass and I will be bringing you thoughts, ideas, and stories from some incredible guests to hopefully inspire you to live more adventurously in your everyday lives.
00:24 Hello and welcome to the Everyday Adventure Podcast. It is so lovely to have you here. Welcome back if you've listened to previous episodes, welcome. Welcome. If this is your first time, it's lovely to have you join me. My name is Nicki, I'm the host of the show and usually I will be bringing you interviews with some really amazing inspiring guests, but occasionally, as those of you listened previously will know I dip in and I do a solo episode and talk about some of the psychology and some of the ideas and some of the themes that have come up in the conversations I've had with people. For those of you who don't know, my day job is as a business psychologist. So I work with teams and companies and organisations and individuals, staff members in those companies thinking about how they can build resilience and support their wellbeing in the workplace.
01:22 Thinking about how we build effective teams, high performing teams, teams that have great trust and confidence in each other and genuinely enjoy working together. And so obviously because of that I have a deep interest in the psychology around the adventures. But one of the themes, the questions that comes up quite a few times, and certainly it's a question I posed to myself quite a lot because it's part of the motivation for doing this podcast is it's great fun or great challenge or exciting to go on adventures, but what impact does that have on the rest of our lives? Does it have any benefit or impact? Does it make a difference actually whether we do or we don't? And I think for most people who've experienced sort of adventures, whether they're big or small or challenges, you get the sense anecdotally, and I know from a personal experience that it does impact on other areas of my life and that it does have greater effect than that being in the moment and that adventure I've been on itself.
02:33 But it's hard to know sometimes what that is. And it's hard to remember that sometimes when we are thinking of do I have time to prioritise this, whether it's going out doing a slightly bigger walk with a dog or going somewhere different, do I have time for that? Do I have time to try a new sport? Do I have time to take on a new activity? Do I have time to sign up to this event or to sign up for this bigger adventure? How do I prioritise that in amongst all the other demands of my time? And so I think it's a really important question to think about because it comes back to part of the motivation for living in an adventurous way. Why is it important to us to do this? What impact does it have on the rest of our lives? And I think there's a number of reasons and that's what I'm going to explore over the course of this episode with you.
03:31 First of all, I think for me it comes from a personal place of knowing that those times where I've been presented with quite a challenging situation in my career or within my personal life or whatever it is, but I think particularly in the workplace when I've had something that I've either started a new job that I'm not sure how to do or someone's asked me to give a presentation or whatever it is that just feels that far outside of my comfort zone, the times I've come back to remind myself I can do hard things are the physical adventures that I've been on. Or when I've done something new and I didn't think I could manage it, that's my memory bank. That's the bit that I come back to sort of go, right, well you might not have any idea how to do this, but you've done hard things before.
04:23 And that might be standing at the top of a steep slope because as those regular listeners know, as I bang on quite a lot, I love snowboarding. So it might be for me that there's been a times when I've, I've been standing there thinking, I dunno how I'm going to get down this. And I found a way to do it. It might be not necessarily extreme adventure, but even when I've pitched up for that very first netball game a few weeks ago and I hadn't played netball in 30 odd years and I'm thinking, oh God, I'm not going to even remember how to where the court lines are, let alone how I'm supposed to play this game. And then you find a way through it and you go, oh, I made it. I managed it somehow. It might not have been pretty, it might not have been perfect, it might have been a little bit scrappy and I got a lot of things wrong, but I managed to find a way through it.
05:13 And it's that feeling that knowing that you have the resources, the internal resources to find a way through that I think is one of the biggest things for me that comes from going on physical adventures or challenges or spending time in the outdoors or doing things where I'm not quite sure how they're going to work out. And the thing is, and this is something that I've done quite a lot of research into as part of my studying, as part of my psychology research, is that there is a lot of research out there that does suggest that when we are faced with challenging situations, that we are able to effectively bank those, bank those memories, bank those feelings and then that can support our resilience further down the line. And they've done work in the field of sports psychology looking at Olympic athletes and they said those moments when they were under stress or pressure, what helped them was knowing or that memory of having been in stressful or difficult situations before, knowing they could manage and then that helped to shore up, that helped to get them through that particular stress for high stress moment.
06:30 It's in the world of work, there's quite a lot of research around how we need some form of challenge stress. We don't want stress that overwhelms or panics us, but having some form of challenge stress in the workplace can really help us to perform. So we know that some form of stress is useful and having a memory of having cope with that stress can help us to perform the next time as well. So there's the research to back it up. There's the evidence to back it up, but I thought it was probably worth just breaking down what are the things that adventures do for us in our wider lives? So the first thing that I really feel is helpful for us that one of the biggest benefits of going these adventures is that they help us to manage uncertainty. And uncertainty is something that we protect ourselves against as much as possible, particularly as we move into adulthood, as we get further into our careers when we're, we are likely to become, to have developed greater expertise in whatever it is that we do.
07:37 We know we are the person that people go to when you know that they need to know the answer to something. We're often mentoring people who potentially are more junior to us, but we've developed a certain level of comfort or expertise in the area in which we work, in the sense that on our world or our career world can sort of narrow in that way. And that's natural that we were, you've set down a career path and you've defined it. And I think what we can lose as a result of that is a tolerance of not knowing, a tolerance of if I try this and I get this wrong, what will that mean? A tolerance of I'm not sure what the outcome will be so I'm not prepared to take the risk. And that's fine when we are in a situation where things are known, but more and more in life and in work and certainly the course of the last years told us anything is that we really don't know what's around the corner.
08:36 And so given that, how do we learn to cope with, to sit that risk so that it doesn't, we are not reverberating with this sense of anxiety the whole time of I just dunno what's going to happen. And that worry that can creep in. And I think that's where are so important because when you're on an adventure, even when it's a small adventure, even if you're just following a path that you've not been down on a dog walk, there's an element of jeopardy in that because you don't know where you are going, there's a level of uncertainty. I'm not quite sure what's going to happen. I'm not quite sure where I'm going to end up. Even if we've done a lot of planning for that adventure, there is still a huge amount of unknown factors in it. And therefore, by the very act of deciding to go on that adventure, we are starting to learn to tolerate the uncertainty that surrounds it.
09:32 And then as we embark on it and we are faced with the reality of often sort of changing situations or things that we haven't necessarily planned for, then we're having to navigate ourselves through that uncertainty to sit with it and to trust that we've got the resources to navigate our way out of it, that we can manage that level of jeopardy to an extent. And so I think the more we put ourselves in situations where we feel, we actively put ourselves in situations where we feel uncertain, where there is that element of unknown attached to it, the more we learn to become accustomed to that, to be able to sit with it doesn't necessarily mean it becomes more comfortable or that we're any happier with the not knowing. But we do learn an element of, oh, I've been here before and I can tolerate this, I can find a way through this.
10:29 And because our worlds are curated to a certain extent to help us to avoid discomfort, adventures offer us that one way of taking ourselves outside of that comfort zone, putting us in a situation where we don't necessarily know what's going to happen next. And that can have such a fundamental impact when we do take it back into our working lives or our daily lives where we're having to make choices and decisions and we think actually maybe I can tolerate that risk a little bit better because I know I've been in situations where I've managed that before.
11:03 So the next thing that I wanted to mention around the power of adventures and how it helps elsewhere in our lives is it helps us to adapt. So not only can we sit with a level of uncertainty on not knowing, but also when the situation changes, when we are out on a hike or a hill walk and suddenly the rain comes in or the path changes or the path that we were on was blocked and we are having to find an alternative when we're on those sort of adventures and things happen that we are not expecting, we learned to find ways to adapt to that, to change our plans. Maybe we have to stop, maybe we have to camp somewhere else. Maybe we need to go and find a hotel because actually the campsite we were going to is flooded. Maybe you know what, you get injured and you have to think about how you are going to manage or a colleague is injured or a friend is injured on that hike with you.
12:05 But knowing that we can adapt, that we can be creative is really helpful for us elsewhere in our lives. I think one of the biggest benefits to me of adventure, one of the reasons I love it, well one of the reasons I feel so passionate about is because it gives us a place to explore that creativity. That what if something happens that's different? Can we think our way of a way to do something differently? What can we use that's around us that's going to help us? How can we manage that in that situation there? And again, there is a lot of freedom in feeling that you have that inherent creativity. We tend to think of individuals as being creative or not depending on what jobs they're in. You might be in the creative industries or you might be doing sort of financial services and thinking actually that's not something that is for me.
12:59 But actually having a sense of our inherent creativity that allows us to adapt, that allows us to change and be comfortable with that change and not to hold on to what could have been is hugely powerful for both our working lives but also elsewhere in our lives. I think particularly when it comes to managing the constant change that might be raising a family and how kids change and develop it impacts when we are impacted by grief, which is a huge life change that we're having to learn and adapt to. And again, when we have experience and exposure to situations which we've needed to adapt, that can at least allow us, even if we can't be creative in that moment, it can at least allow us to know that it's possible. And I think that's where adventures can have a huge benefit for us too. I think one of the other aspects of adventure, this is probably the least talked about in terms of when we think of describing a big adventure that we might be going on or that when we hear tales of wonderful adventures, not always the thing that comes to mind, but interestingly enough, I think it is probably the theme that comes up most times when I've been speaking to guests as the unexpected benefit that they experience from the adventure they've been on.
14:30 And that is the power of connection. Because again, as we grow older and we are become ensconced in our daily lives and we have the people that we know and the people we meet with, and we've probably got fairly set friendships and people that we've known for a long period of time, what we tend to find is those connections are really powerful and strong and that's fantastic. But if we move house for example, or if things change and the connections that we normally rely on become really busy or they've got other things going on, then actually we can find sometimes that we can feel quite lonely. And loneliness is one of the biggest predictors of challenges with mental health. So there's a really strong link between us feeling connected to other people and then how we feel about ourselves. And the biggest unexpected benefit that comes up time and time again is that people go, do you know what it was, the connections I made along the way that were the most powerful experience I set off to do this thing.
15:33 But as a result of doing this thing, actually I met these amazing, generous, kind people. I met people, strangers who opened their homes to me. I met other people doing the same activity who helped me and then I became part of that community as well. It brought me closer to friends and family who were supporting, or I met new people who I didn't know before, but who told me that it was possible who sort of motivated me to keep going. And I think that power of connection that comes from taking on some of these adventures that we do. And again, even if there's small adventures and you are chatting to someone in the park with your dog or you, you know, take up a new sport and you meet a new group of people and they might not necessarily be your best friends, but actually there's such power and just joy in seeing people on a regular basis and hi, how are you?
16:32 It's lovely to see you back here and taking part in something together. And that impacts on the rest of our lives because when we feel connected to other people and connected to the world around us, as I said, it supports our mental health, but also it shows us the possibility of more connection. That we haven't sort of reached a finite list of friends or acquaintances or connections that are impacting our lives at any stage. That actually there's always people around us, there's always the opportunity for greater connection with others. And depending what we're going through or what we are experiencing, actually that connection can be hugely useful as well and really important to us when we are sort of encountering difficult life challenges too. So yeah, that to me has been a really interesting point that's come up so many times in the conversations that I've been having.
17:31 And I love it that it's a surprise. I love it that it's unexpected that we sort of set into it without knowing, but then as a result of what we are doing, those connections grow and that sense of connection then across a wider community of people trying new things, trying to live adventurously grows too. And the final point that I just want to touch on in this episode is to think about the impact that living in an adventurous way or going on adventurous has on our ability to manage failure. And again, failure is one of those aspects of life that we protect ourselves from as much as possible because one of the biggest drivers of human behaviour is fear of shame. And so that dictates how we operate. It keeps us in our lane, in our box, it keeps us doing the things that we think we are good at and stops us from stepping outside into being a bit rubbish at things because we are worried about what will that mean?
18:38 What will people think of us? What will happen if I'm not so good at this thing? What happens if I try and I've put it out there and I've told people I'm going to do it and then I fail? And then when you actually do undertake an adventure of any description that sometimes it doesn't work, sometimes we turn up and we are a bit rubbish or the weather goes against us or it's not as fun as we think it might be or it is, there's just ways in which we're just not able to navigate and complete what it is that we set out to do. And that can be in small ways or in big ways that the adventure becomes something different or it doesn't become, we don't complete it even though that's what we had our heart set on. And I think there is an inherent part of adventure that is the risk of failure, that there is the risk that things won't work or it won't be complete.
19:38 But when we put ourselves in that situation of vulnerability, that we are prepared to expose ourself to that possibility, to that chance even when it happens. There's something about actually we've practised in doing that again, the more that we do it, the more that we take that risk, the more that we're prepared to put ourselves out there and possibly experience that we develop a form of immunity to that feeling that we have to get it right. And I think this is really important. I think it is particularly important in terms of our work lives where there's so much pressure and so much expectation of perfectionism. And one of the biggest impacts is can be that we don't try new things or that we stay in roles that we don't particularly enjoy because we are worried about if we start something new, what happens if it doesn't work out?
20:35 And obviously there may be financial implications to things isn't saying everyone should just chuck things up in the air and go and do the thing that they love. But it is saying that sometimes we need to assess whether what is preventing us from doing something is a fear of failure, is a fear of getting things wrong, is a fear of shame. And what would it mean? What choices would we make differently if that wast there or if we could somehow learn to sit alongside that fear. And so the more we go on these adventures, the more that we try new things, even when they don't work out, the more we become conscious that we can probably manage it and it may not be a pleasant feeling and when it does go a bit wrong, we go, okay, actually I didn't really enjoy that or that wasn't what I wanted to happen.
21:27 But it stops preventing us from trying it again. And I think that's really powerful and that impacts in our home life as well. Again, this idea that there is a perfect parent or a perfect child or there is a perfect way of existing in this life, the more we push ourselves and challenge ourselves, the more likely it is that we are not going to get everything. And then we learn that actually there are lots of different ways to do things and there are a lot of different that we can recover, that we can find a way through that maybe we learn new strengths that we didn't know we had, that something good does come out of it, even if the main event wasn't what we expected. So those are the four points that I really want to leave you with today. There's so much more that I could talk about in terms of a benefits of adventure, but I thought it would be a really interesting place to explore just thinking about actually how does do these adventures that we go on or these ideas of adventures that we have, how does that impact on the rest of our lives?
22:32 And hopefully by realising that they do, it enables us to prioritise them all our life to go, actually you know what, today I am going to go on a mini adventure or I am going to sign up to that course or that event that I've always wanted to do because do you know what, not only is it something I want to do, but I know it's going to have a huge impact in all sorts of ways in terms of how it will benefit my life more broadly. And I know for me, whenever I go on adventure, no matter how it's gone, I always come back feeling, I'm so glad I tried, I'm so glad I did that. It's filled, it's, it's helped to build that bank, that core of resilience. I like to keep talking about your psychological core that enables you to cope with hard things.
23:20 Anyway, I would love to know your thoughts on this and any other things that, any other benefits that you feel adventure brings to you in terms of your daily life. If you have any thoughts, if this is resonated with you, please do reach out to me. You can find me on Instagram everyday adventure pod or resilience work. You can visit my website, resilience work.co.uk. You can find me on LinkedIn, Nikki Bass, and I would really love to hear from you. So please do get in touch and otherwise I will be back very soon with another amazing guest to hopefully inspire you to live your lives more. Adventurously too. Take care. Bye.