Taking on something monumental takes passion and something akin to fearlessness. It manifests as an inner fire that stokes your motivation even when life rises up to challenge you.
When this inner fire is burning, it delivers a swirl of emotions from joy and excitement to fear and awe. You find yourself leaning into capacities that you didn’t know you possessed and pushing through obstacles and growing in ways you didn’t think possible.
A key source of this fire for many people is the sense of adventure found in outdoor activities like local running races, group bike rides, camping or active vacations and guided trips.
During the pandemic of 2020, finding opportunities to stoke this inner fire through adventure has become a lot harder. But as normal outlets for connection, challenge and fun have been cancelled or altered drastically, people have responded with an outpouring of initiative, resilience and creativity. Virtual events have popped up all over the world. And people are making up their own adventures and doing them alone or in small, socially distanced groups.
This underscores the enormously important role of adventurous play in sustaining mental and physical health. For many people it is a vital and natural place to find solace as well as inspiration.
But, adventurous play can be a be a gateway to personal growth for a much broader audience than I once imagined. If we define it as the kind of play that demands preparedness, full commitment and focus, courage and resilience, but also allow that the adventure can be whatever you personally find engaging and just a little bit scary, the possibilities quickly expand well beyond such iconic achievements as climbing high mountains or completing triathlons. And, in a world more and more removed from physical challenge, especially in the outdoors, the need for this type of adventure is growing for all segments of our population.
For those who do seek it out, adventurous play is ripe with health benefits. Your ability to cope with stress is enhanced by having a physical and emotional outlet. You become more resilient as a result of navigating life’s twists and turns, both as you prepare for the adventure and while you are carrying it out. Your job performance is better after an invigorating adventure. Your mood is improved, and you’ll feel more positive, which also benefits your job performance and carries over into strengthening your social connections and relationships. And I would argue that all of these are bolstered not only as a result of your adventure, but during the buildup to the adventure as well.
And, adventurous play is a powerful way to access meaning. Imaginative and challenging quests can add joy and texture to your life because, at their very best, these sorts of challenges deliver a powerful dose of clarity about your place in the world. They leave you changed and add to the stories that define you and make you unique.
Your own adventure can be completing your first 5K (see Clare’s story below!), hiking to a summit, paddling a river, backpacking through the wilderness, biking across a whole state… or whatever calls to you personally. The magnitude of the challenge can only be defined by you. It must be big enough to lead you to pause, to be unsure if you can pull it off. But, it must be accessible enough that it draws you in.
The spark is that first hint of motivation that you notice. It might be the thought, “I wonder if I could do that” or “I sure would like to go there!”.
From there, with a little nurturing, the fire grows and becomes something that pulls you toward it. Once it’s hot enough, you can weather challenges and obstacles along the way. You can overcome self-doubt. You begin to understand that progress is not a straight line and that success can be defined in many different ways, including the growth that comes from falling down (sometimes literally).
I witnessed a spark that turned into a flame this past summer and fall, as my client Clare moved from that first inspiration of “I think I can finish a 5K”, through the weeks of determined sessions in heat and rain, to her finish line in September.
My impression from accompanying her is that her journey took immense courage. She used the surgery she mentions in her story below as a rallying point. She took on an air of, “If I can come through that, I can do anything”. And she was looking for something that scared her enough that completing it would add to the fabric of her life. She embraced the idea and stepped into the commitment of time and energy with a full heart.
Her impressions follow:
Sometimes you meet a person who is truly gifted. Michael Scholtz represents one of those rare individuals with tremendous abilities, especially in the area of motivating someone to achieve her goals. During the time I have worked with Michael, he helped me lose over 110 pounds without the aid of surgery. I moved from a person who could barely walk to the end of the edge of their property, to one who can walk several miles. Recently I had surgery. Throughout the recovery, I was asked whether I wanted a walker or a cane. I replied, “No, thank you”. Medical people seemed surprised, however; unanimously they exclaimed, “You are in such great shape!” My surgeon said this led to a shorter stay in the hospital. My physical therapist released me after only two sessions. The care manager said I didn’t need occupational therapy. And my personal physician said, “You are growing younger”. Michael asked me to identify my next goal two weeks after the surgery. I decided it would be walking in a virtual 5 K set for three months after the surgery. I inquired, “Is this doable?” and he enthusiastically said, “yes!” This embodies Michael: he starts from where you are and inspires you to achieve goals beyond your imagination!