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Updated: Dec 7, 2021

What happens when you lose your way, unsure where you are or where you are meant to be going? Learn to thrive on the fact that you are intentionally LOST!!

In my blogs I put forward ideas from Adventure Psychology to help people figure a way to thrive in uncertain times, and make sense of the crazy world. By adopting an Adventure Mindset (I'll gradually reveal how) you can approach the challenges of life with an adaptable resolve, and embrace the chaos knowing full well that it's a wild ride so you might as well enjoy it!

“We sometimes have to accept that we are not in total control, hold the hands up and say ‘I am not sure where I am’.”

Losing your way...on purpose

This piece is inspired by reading (skimming) an article in a recent issue of The Psychologist and I’ll explore the concept in greater detail in future on how the mental processes involved in navigation have bearing on how we function optimally (or sub-optimally) in life.

I am not someone who follows the normal path. I am more inclined to wander off it, meander off into the undergrowth, or spontaneously dash up the hillside to see what’s up there, what’s over the horizon, what it looks like back down below.

Take last night. I set off in the dark (and fog). I wandered a certain way along the path then pitched off across the moors. It’s ok I found my way back (I always do). I make a habit of this.

Am I talking literally? Figuratively? Both as it happens.

I want to talk about how sometimes it’s just fine to go wandering off-piste. In fact, there is a lot to benefit from not sticking to the well-worn path. As long as you are prepared.

The first step in being prepared is to sport an adventurous mindset. What is this?

It means firstly being bold and having an ability to pull yourself out of a fixed, path-following attitude. It doesn’t take much on the one hand, but it takes a lot on the other! We can be so routinely fixated on going forward that we forget that there are other options, or that there is in fact a world (of detail) either side of the path, and that by always ignoring this and pressing on head down we are doing ourselves (and the world) a disservice. We are creating deeper furrows in the track that make it harder to deviate in future.

But opportunity, refreshed perspective lies in stepping out of those rutted tracks and plodding onto the moorland. “But I might get wet feet!” I hear you cry. “Good!” I hasten back. So, what. Maybe get waterproof shoes in future. Or enjoy the fact you’ll have refreshingly wet and soggy feet that give you that connection with the earth. Maybe you’ll even end up driving home barefoot (what a rebel!!). I forgot my boots yesterday and my feet did get a little soggy, but I didn’t have to drive back barefoot.

I have often been grumbled at in the past leading people (astray) up hill and over dale - “why do you never stick to the path?!” (“because I don’t want to!! It's more interesting this way”.) Instead, I prompt a different perspective, a sense of walking the (non-)path-untrammelled. Nine times out of ten a more satisfied punter ensues, with ‘bragging rights’ that they have not suffered the tedium of going the same way as everyone else. It may be more effort but that’s a more satisfied reward earned at the end.

I urge you next time you are wandering along a footpath to stop, take a look around, and vault over the fence... (up to you, just watch out for ruddy faced farmers and tutting ramblers). Not necessarily anything so radical, but maybe stop at a juncture where you can see a less marked way off on a tangent, and go explore.

Now as a caveat, I do this a lot, and at night. But I take a map, a compass, a torch or two, a warm hat (Big Base Beanie), and the wherewithal to get lost and then re-found. I know what am doing.

The thrill of getting intentionally lost stands one in good stead when one gets unintentionally lost.

It’s quite a primal feeling being ‘lost’. Or at least uncertain about where one actually ‘is’. There are great parallels with life here, when it comes to being uncertain, overwhelmed, anxious and directionless – or frustrated at a lack of onward progress. I’ve been in situations alone in wild places where I have started to question where the hell I am, and mindful of getting further off-track and towards danger zones. I have had to sternly talk to myself to quell a rising tide of anxiety that could burst into panic, be that halfway down the Eiger, or wandering about alone in the Alps, in the Mojave Desert, or numerous other mountain environments home or abroad. Even underwater. Each time I had to take stock, make it very clear to myself that I have done this on purpose. And to revel in that feeling of empty alone-ness and the acknowledgement that I am completely at my own behest, there’s no one about to show me the way. (As an aside since a child I have experienced this same feeling when alone in vast space such as museums around closing time, and learnt to embrace it as thrilling and affirming of my own self-sufficiency!)

The way I approach challenges in life and ‘in the wild’ are to adopt what I call an ‘adventure mindset’. As an introduction to this here the concept of being lost (or momentarily uncertain as to where one is versus where one ‘should be’) is a useful one. The reactive mindset can rapidly spiral into panic or sometimes a misplaced forced confidence that plunges you completely into the mire and truly not where you should be. We sometimes have to accept that we are not in total control, hold the hands up and say ‘I am not sure where I am’. You can make some educated guesses and have some faith in that. You can always retrace your steps or look for features in the landscape that can help ‘handrail’ you to another place where the next incremental decision can be made.

But most important in this is accepting in the first place that you ‘intend’ to get lost, or at least accept that you are going into this deviation from the path voluntarily, and to embrace the thrill of that. The risk will provide either amplified reward when you get to where you needed to be under your own steam, or indeed a somewhat inconvenient experience, wet, dishevelled, late, and able to laugh (or cry) about it later. And most importantly make sure you go deviate once more next time (irrespective of previous ‘success’ or ‘failure’).

Already by making the decision to stray, to embrace the somewhat unknown, you have begun to adopt the adventure mindset. It all counts in these uncertain, anxious, frustrating times. And carrying over this mindset to your daily life, however incremental the deviation from routine, structure, convention can pay dividends and contribute to cultivation of a bolder and more committed ‘adventure mindset’! So what are you waiting for?


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