Finding your adventure

By Don Otis
Reader Adventure Columnist

Mike served as a helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War. The residual effects of PTSD were evident. Quiet. Reserved. Expressionless. We talked every time we saw each other at the gym—and that was almost daily. He asked me a question one day. “What are your goals?” When I told him, he followed up with, “What are you doing to accomplish them? What’s your plan?” DO-Peak1_WEB

In my office is a small plaque with the words, “Make It Happen.” And that’s exactly what we must do in life, in relationships, in fitness, in adventure. Make a plan. Make it happen. And a life without a plan for adventure is a life stuck in neutral, mired in the mundane stuck in the predictability of daily life. In the movie, “Braveheart,” William Wallace says, “Every man dies but not every man really lives.” And that’s the rub isn’t it? How do we squeeze the most out of life and learn to really live? What’s that look like for you?

As a kid I always had goals. I don’t know why. Maybe it was having an older brother who chased me down the block or up a tree. Ironically, I am still running and climbing so maybe it wasn’t all that bad.  I don’t know why some of us are motivated and others are content to sit in front a television. Perhaps it is the thrill of an adrenaline rush without the actual physical effort.  But what motivates you—especially in the midst of a long North Idaho winter? What does it take for you to make it happen, establish goals, and get healthy? One thing I have found is that being healthy is integrally linked to our goals and a sense for adventure.

As a kid growing up in Los Angeles it took work and planning to find adventure. By the time I was 16 a friend and I made our way to the Mt. Whitney trail. It was comical. We were two foolish boys that didn’t know just how cold it gets at 12,000’. We learned quickly. In the morning we watched the alpenglow cast a golden hue on the summit. We were hooked. I went back the next year and made the summit—all 14,505’. It was my first 14er but would eventually lead to a much larger goal but that’s another story. . .

Most of us find the very best and most satisfying experiences in life often come saddled with effort, pain, or difficulty. We derive our sense of well being or self worth from pushing ourselves into new, challenging or uncomfortable situations. It’s a paradox but it seems to play out that way. In my last book about boys and men I identified four characteristics that help define an adventure.

1. It must be exciting—it must include an element of exhilaration or the experience is less meaningful.

2. It must be a challenge—it must push the limit of what you think possible or comfortable.

3. It must include unpredictability—you can minimize risks but you cannot control all possible outcomes.

4. It must tax you mentally, emotionally or physically—preferably all of these at once.

By the way, our goals and adventures in life always involve the possibility of failure. I left that part for the end but it applies to nearly every area of our lives. Take a risk. Write down some goals. Look for your adventure. Make it happen.
Don S. Otis is president of Veritas Communications, a publicity agency based in Sandpoint. He is the author of five books and dozens of articles. In his spare time he has been a hiker, triathelete, mountaineer, runner, and personal trainer. He and his son, Landon started as a way to encourage people to enjoy North Idaho outdoors.

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