Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, posted a question on Facebook this weekend “Agree or disagree? ‘September is the other January.'” Having spent Labor Day weekend in somewhat of a sabbatical mode, I couldn’t agree more. Even though summer doesn’t technically end until the autumnal equinox on September 22nd, I’ve prepared myself for the start of a new season by saying goodbye to the summer ales and sundresses, cleaning house, assessing old projects, and teeing up some new ones. With the year being 2/3 over, it brings me back to the question asked in January in the post New Year’s Day; Renewable Enthusiasm Day: Are you living? Or are you merely growing old? How are you doing so far with that whole “living” thing?
What is really living, anyway? What makes you come alive? What if someone, (oh…say, me?) challenged you to choose your own adventure to find out exactly that?
I loved those Choose Your Own Adventure books. Growing up, my girlfriend and I would act out these adventures across the large farm where her dad lived and worked.
As adults, it’s so easy to lose that sense of adventure, wonder, creativity, and choice. And frankly, it’s negatively impacting not only the quality of our lives, but the quality of our businesses, our economy and our ability to innovate our way out of the doldrums.
Plenty of research, books, media outlets are reporting on the scientific benefits, as well as people picking up on the trend of embracing a more adventurous or creative mindset.
Food for thought – Why Labor Day is more than just a day off work:
- Creativity Post: Why Free Time Frees Creativity
- NYT: Be More Productive. Take Time Off
- American Public Media: Who gets to have fun…at work?
- Fast Company: It’s Not Quite Funny Or Die, But Improv Works To Fuel Powerful Innovation
- Psychology Today: The Five Elements of Adventure: Authenticity, Purpose and Inspiration
This summer, at the World Domination Summit in Portland, there were about 1,000 people who weren’t waiting for anyone to fix our economic problems. If they hadn’t already done so, many were set on becoming entrepreneurs, set upon living a remarkable life of adventure, community, and service.
Also this summer, at the MIX Mashup, businesses gathered together to tell stories about how they are actively working to make their organizations more human. These questions posed by the Management Innovation Exchange seem like the belong in a fairy tale. But my wish is that we felt like we were really living during the 8(+) hours, 5(+) days a week we work.
It would seem that there is not only a productive return on investment to adventure, creativity, wonder, challenge, purpose, curiosity. But either competitors are going to invest in it, and out-compete you in the marketplace and steal your talent to boot, or your employees are going to seek it out on their own as an entrepreneur.
Knowing that so many rich possibilities are out there, even if we don’t feel like it at any given time (say, while watching the news or while commuting), I suggest that Autumn is a pretty forgiving time to consider the value of time-off and really living, given the number of 3-day weekends ahead of us. Now that we’re a little more clear on the value of taking advantage of those days, it’s time to commit to remembering what “really living” means. It’s time to commit to choosing things that make us feel alive, with a sense of adventure, creativity, wonder, challenge, purpose, curiosity.
There are TONS of free resources around to helps us re-engage it this sense of adventure. Check out this mind map that I did documenting a few of my favorite TED talks, and how they align to various topics of feeling most alive. (You’ll have to click the play button to advance the map at each branch. The + sign reveals the hidden branches, which are collapsed by default.)
My wish is that we not only spread these worthy, inspiring ideas, but activate each others to design our own real-life, adult version of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series. Choose to engage in activities that explore and redefine your relationship with your mind and spirit, your body, food, others, and the earth and world we live in. As you explore these areas, over time, you’ll find the nexus between them.
Activities that work your mind/spirit and body help build a better sense of connection and self-mastery. If you have a better relationship with your body and with food, you will nurture yourself. If you combine food with a relationship with others, you will build community – this is one of the oldest foundations of community. If you explore your relationship with “others” as well as with the earth and the world we live in, this is where service resides. And if you explore the earth and world we live in, as well as your mind and spirit – this is what fuels creativity and adventure.
You can look at the mind map also as a diagnostic tool. As you strive to balance work and the rest of your life, you might find the cup overfloweth in some areas, and are pretty weak in others. Spend the fall rounding out at least one under-utilized part of your map. You’ll notice that job, career, profession, and money aren’t part of the map. Most of us spend plenty of time thinking about those areas. If you need that to be part of your adventure, you can place them under another rubric. Money could be considered part of “the world we live in” and I know plenty of people who consider their profession as part of “service.”
When it comes to adventure, author and coach Matt Walker points out in his article, Climb Ev’ry Mountain, you don’t have to scale high mountains in some other region of the world to have an adventure. I had them in my back yard as a kid, and I’m going to bet we can still do that.
One of Renewable Enthusiasm’s favorite quotes is: “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do that. Because what the world needs is for more people to come alive.”
As you look toward Autumn, we soooo need you to be open to what makes you come alive.
Just in case you needed a template to take notes on all those resources I just threw at you, here are a few blank mind maps. Print one out and play along at home.