JOURNAL ENTRY

Messy adventures flow out of tidy beginnings

Aug 13, 2019

There is a belief (maybe you subscribe to it) that, in order to stand any chance of success in the adventure of becoming your best self, you need to clear the decks and put everything in order first. To ‘have all your ducks in a row', as they say. And I get that.

But here's the thing: your affairs will never be completely in order. There is always something new on the horizon. And, even if you get your ducks neatly in a row for even a brief moment, there will always be a ‘duck' that's more than happy to step out of the line. Your adventure just won't work that way.

You see, the best adventures (and the adventure into becoming your best self is the best of them all) are messy. They are ragged around the edges: unpredictable, loose, fluid. They seem to stand far removed from the humdrum of normal life, as they cry of freedom and craziness, excitement and surprise.

But those epic, ragged around the edges adventures are out of reach for those who stand rooted in the hum-drum of normal life. Trapped in a version of who they are meant to be, those people (and maybe you are one of them) crave adventure, while they embrace the mundane.

The simple fact is that most people will never get to taste the freedom, the craziness or excitement offered by those adventures they crave deep down, or to experience the surprises they hold.

Because, adventures - especially the messy kind (and, for the record, all adventures worth taking are messy) - are the sole domain of the real risk-takers: the action heroes and crazy fools who hold no regard for rules and order; the brave and reckless who live in the moment, with a sense of abandon for the future.

Or, at least, that's what novels and movies, magazines and newsreels, and good old social media feeds would have you believe. But movies and novels, magazines and newsreels, and especially social media feeds do not align with how real life works.

You see, a life filled with adventure - a life that colours outside the lines and walks the undiscovered paths - is not borne out of hedonism, or a sense of carpe-diem, or from chaos and recklessness, or a willingness to throw yourself on the mercy of chance with no regard for your own safety.

No, a life filled with adventure is borne out of intention and purpose. It is a life that makes room for the unexpected, and embraces the unknown.

As perverse as it may seem, a life filled with adventure flows out of order.

To support and release the messiness, every adventure, no matter how small, or how epic, depends on order. Whether it's tackling Everest, the Inca Trail or the Vendee Globe; discovering new lands or populations; building an enterprise out of nothing, or taking a new direction in work, or in study; or, yes, even pursuing your best self - the outcome, and the shape, of that adventure rests on the foundation from which the journey began.

And so you have the paradox.

To live a life filled with the best that adventure has to offer, and navigate all of the messiness that entails, you must first craft a place filled with order - a place that is tidy - from which you can step forward into the unknown, in pursuit of the unexpected.

But tidy does not mean rigid. Order does not mean that all your ducks must be in a row. It simply requires that you know what ducks you've got, where they are, and the effect they have on your capacity to embark upon, and stay with, your adventure.

And establishing a tidiness and order that is not constrained or bound by the rigid demands of uniformity or predictability, yet is substantial enough to lay the foundation for the messiness of adventure takes effort. Lots of effort.

Effort to rid yourself of distractions, so that the space in your brain is not consumed by the matters of no consequence that pull you away from your true purpose. Effort to protect yourself from the physical and mental boulders that threaten to destabilise your wellbeing and throw you off course. Effort to stand firm against all that would draw you towards a path far-removed from that which you were made to forge.

Effort to rid yourself of everything that threatens your disorderly order, and potentially stands between you and your messy adventures.

You see, only when you are distraction-free - only when your capacity is consumed not by the irrelevant but by the essential - can the adventure into your best self truly unfold.

So, figure out the distractions, obstacles and boulders you need to get rid of. Get a fix on your ducks - what and where they are, and how they affect your progress. And then you decide which ducks belong, which do not, which need to be nailed down, and which are free to run wild. And accept that, at no time, will all your ducks be in a nice, neat row.

Begin with an average day. Where does your time go? What obstacles block your path? What challenges do you face? To what extent do the activities you engage in move you towards your epic adventure into your best self?

Where your time goes - that's a duck. The obstacles and challenges ahead of you - ducks. Review your team of ducks and set aside those that have no business being present. The ducks that don't move you towards that epic adventure are the ducks that have no business being present.

Then, armed with your list of ducks to get rid of, set to work. What can you do to eliminate those from your day? What effect will that have? How will the space without those ducks allow you to focus more on those that remain?

Spend some time working on that today: your chances of discovering and becoming the real you - your best self - depend on it.

And, remember, you can access a whole range of tools and resources to help you build on this in the Live a Big Life Academy. Which, don't forget, is totally free.


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