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The Adventurous Brain

Modern life, whilst sometimes appearing to confer comfort, routine, safety, in fact can give rise to unfulfilment, a sense of malaise and even depression and poor mental wellbeing. The antidote to this is to embrace adventure and seize opportunities to expand one's mental horizons. The CognitvExplorer approach seeks out challenge, facing the unknown and thriving on uncertainty - in short by adopting an Adventure Mindset!



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!

“The Adventurous Brain is the mode in which we can operate at a more productive and motivated way. Adventure is found in opportunity, in seeking to confront the unknown. It involves processing a situation and instead of reacting to butterflies in the stomach that can be interpreted as fear, discomfort and therefore prompting a retreat, pressing forward towards the source of that apparent discomfort."

Stretching mental horizons

Day to day life can become routine, unsatisfying, hum-drum: a tapestry of mundaneity. Stuck in a rut, it’s difficult to escape, find purpose beyond scrolling through a phone, or lapsing into the same old ways and behaviours.


But the brain is designed to be more adventurous than this!


We would never have evolved to our present levels of sophistication, motivation and complexity if this were not so (though that may be hard to believe looking at the next reality TV show or latest trending on TikTok!!).


The brain craves stimulation. If the senses are deprived, as experiments have shown, the brain will create it’s own hallucinatory reality. I did some of my own experiments on this in my university days. Even after an hour in a restricted position, with diffuse light and white noise, people would report having floated off downstream, or seen giant teddy bears wandering about in the room (!).


A capacity to explore the environment is wired into us from inception as we forage our surroundings crawling, grasping, sampling whatever hoves into reach. We can become quickly bored when deprived of novelty, everything is familiar.


The modern sensibility to stay within the comfort zone may give the illusion of security, wellbeing, but in fact simply makes us slaves to routine, and vulnerable to anxiety, depression, despair.


A little adventurous thinking can go a long way.


The Adventurous Brain is the mode in which we can operate in a more productive and motivated way. Adventure is found in opportunity, in seeking to confront the unknown. It involves processing a situation and instead of reacting to butterflies in the stomach that can be interpreted as fear, discomfort and therefore prompting a retreat, pressing forward towards the source of that apparent discomfort. ‘Fear’ becomes ‘thrill’ at the prospect of encountering novelty, stimulation and ultimately expanding the repertoire of future possibilities.


With this repertoire lodged within the brain, those experiences can be drawn upon time and again to rejuvenate a purpose that might have faltered. The so called ‘remembering self’ (as espoused by Daniel Kahneman) is the narrative of incidents and experiences we have encountered on our journey through life. And the brain has a tendency to amplify certain experiences when crafting the tale of self. It is important to have adventurous experiences to shore up the story we tell ourselves down the line. In short to make sure there are no regrets at opportunities not taken.


We all have bad days, bad weeks, hell bad years! But if we can draw upon a wealth of memories of times when we stepped outside of our comfort, and rose to challenge, seized opportunities adventurously, we have a ready made medicine cabinet from which to select a remedy to a temporary sense of malaise.


I am fortunate to have a well-stocked cabinet of such memories to draw on, as well as revelling in the adventures of those I study at the extreme end of the spectrum!

Even more satisfying is to be asked by others to recount a tale of such and such an incident that occurred, when the stakes were high, or the risks mounted up. This is when adventures take on a life of their own and inspire others.


‘Adventurous’ can mean many things to many people. But it does not have to involve confronting death in tooth and claw. It does, however, require a certain commitment, and putting oneself into a position of potential vulnerability – as in facing the unknown.

Lately I have been committing myself to ‘getting lost’, a theme espoused throughout my writings. In order to consolidate my skills and aspire to professional standards, I have gone to places where I must rely on my knowledge and abilities to find my way home. Navigation in the mountains can be a daunting prospect at the best of times, but especially so at night. To make an error can compound into a series of mistakes and soon you don’t know where you are!


But approaching this with an Adventurous Mindset finds the experience to be a rewarding challenge. This means having a sense of the purpose behind doing the exercise. It means being composed and aware of one’s capabilities. It means stopping and taking stock to make sure that options are weighed up and decisions made based on careful reviewing of the information to hand. But most of all it means embracing the thrill of putting oneself into a situation voluntarily, to take the lessons from the experience as they come, and to enjoy operating in a mode that one will certainly grow from, and indeed treasure down the line!

There are many other experiences I can look back on and likewise treasure, even though I know that at the time I felt anything but comfortable in the situation I found myself in. Would I do these again? Of course!


This is why I offer to take people out into the wilds, so that they too can experience what it’s like to be in an environment that is vast, untamed, somewhat unknown. The unfamiliar can stimulate, re-energise and enforce a change in perspective. It can overwhelm to positive ends as the mental horizons are compelled to stretch and to accommodate a wider field of view than is customarily experienced in everyday life. Most importantly, the experience comes back with the person and sticks in mind, influencing the mindset that one takes forward in life. That ‘medicine cabinet’ accrues remedies for future use…


Before long, the Adventurous Brain is hooked on this and wants more and more experiences.


Come on, where’s your sense of adventure?


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