Why is it so difficult break the routine of everyday life and start getting ourselves out of our comfort zone?
Some people, the lucky few, are exposed to new adventures from a young age, through their parents, through clubs, through being encouraged to take on new challenges. As children we are primed for adventure and new experiences. We jump in puddles, we climb trees, we build dens, we imagine big. But we start small. For most of us, myself included, life begins to takes on a more sedentary pace as we get a little older. Life begins to get in the way of actually living. The stifling pressures of so-called normal life are huge, and they start when we are still young, at an age where we are unable to recognise them and are not equipped to push back at their effects.
In school, at home, in our own minds, expectations are placed on us to be like the people that we see around us.
The desire to fit-in and to act in ways seen by others to be normal and valuable to the group is a natural human state of mind. It originates in our evolution as a social species. We humans derive our strength from our social nature, we live in groups, and it is in these groups that we are strong but on our own we find ourselves to be weak. Imagine for a moment if you will, a young hunter gatherer 37,000 years ago. He is part of the first group of humans to venture into Europe seeking new lands to survive upon. Along with a few hundred of his fellow explorers he moves from place to place, always seeking new hunting grounds and new resources. His group is strong, they hunt in teams, they share resources and knowledge, they draw on the collective to become more than the sum of their individual members. Conditions for the group are harsh and the winters are like nothing experienced by any humans to come before them.
The survival of the group is on a knife edge and every member has a vital role to play and a duty to fulfil it.
Everyone must carry their own weight! But our young hunter gatherer does not fit in. Rather than doing what is expected of him he prefers to do his own thing, to break the mould. He is often distracted from his duties contemplating his existence and can often be found on his own, away from the group. He struggles to respect the social order and constantly challenges the ascribed rules. This does not go un-noticed by the group and they eventually banish him. He finds himself on his own – and he is in big trouble! Without the collective strength of hundreds of individuals he will be lucky to survive a few months and will surely not survive the harsh European winter. And if he is dead, he cannot pass on his genes to the next generation. Even if he somehow finds a way to survive, without his group he cannot hope to bear children and his traits die with him. This is a simple process of evolution; those traits which are most common are those which have the best chance of being passed down to successive generations. And social conformity, the desire to be accepted in the eyes of others, is one of those traits that strongly influence our behaviour to this day. That is what we have always done and continue to do.
Sometimes we may catch a glimpse of it, maybe even to actually touch it – if only for a fleeting moment. It is all too rare that we actually manage to grab hold of it and to make it part of us.
But if we can break free of mundane life and begin to have our own adventures we can change our whole perspective on what it actually means to be alive. The rewards for those who make this leap are well worth the effort. No longer will our childhood dreams of adventure go unfulfilled! The first tentative steps into the unknown will always be the most difficult, we may suffer a crisis of confidence or a lack of motivation may lead to inaction but you have to believe me, you will be taking the first step towards a more fulfilling life.