I have spent almost a decade trying to understand something that most people think doesn't exist. In the process, I have battled Kiefer Sutherland in drunken Jenga, crashed bachelorette parties for wild nights on the town, and been crushed by a bull during running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain — all in order to understand what it takes to live a fun, exciting, and remarkable life. In other words, I study the science of adventure.
My research and wild stories are shared fully in my new book, The 2 AM Principle: Discover the Science of Adventure, which argues that adventures aren't random. In fact, they are a process, and these six secrets will help you create your own and live a happier life.
1. Surround yourself with people who inspire you
You know the old adage that says you are the average of your five best friends? Well, it turns out that this is completely true. Research by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler has found that everything from obesity to voting behavior to divorce and even happiness is spread across our social networks up to four degrees away.
In other words, if you have an obese friend, your chances of obesity increase by 45 percent, your friends' chances increase by 25 percent, your friends' friends' by 10 percent, and your friends' friends' friends' by 5 percent. If you want to live an exciting and remarkable life, select your friends based on the values that you admire. Who you choose to spend your time with will define your world. So choose them wisely. If you keep hanging out with a drama queen, you will be miserable, and it will be contagious like the plague. Instead of drama, find fun-loving people who encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and grow as a person.
2. Say yes!
If something scares you but it won't kill you, then do it. Instead of shying away from opportunities that put you out of your comfort zone, say yes. If you want to approach an attractive stranger, then strike up a conversation. If you think that bungee jumping looks fun but have always been nervous to try it yourself, take the leap.
Our brains respond to novel and exciting experiences. When we grow too familiar with locations or activities, they become boring. When we say yes to new opportunities, it can lead to more exciting experiences. You may not like everything you try, but taking on a yes attitude will give you a breadth of experience and can improve your life, relationships, and career.
3. Make a commitment you don't know how to fulfill
We are most productive and motivated when we are pursuing something that is new and challenging. But if something is too overwhelming, it creates a state of anxiety in which we lose motivation and productivity. Every year, I create a travel goal. One year, I went to the most famous events in the world each month. No matter where it was, without knowing how to pay for it. Another year, I went to all seven continents. I went with Expedition Trips to Antarctica, and it was the most memorable experience of my life. If I didn't set audacious goals, I'd never have to grow in order to achieve them.
4. It's not the juice, it's the squeeze
Traditional thinking challenges us to ask: is the result worth the effort? Is the juice worth the squeeze? But when it comes to adventurous living, the result of the experience and the stories we have are secondary. The true gift is who we become in the process. Because long after the experience and the memories fade, we'll still have the capacity to grow and expand our comfort zones.
5. Embrace discomfort
The scope of our life expands in direct proportion to how uncomfortable we are willing to be. When was the last time that you did something that scared you? If something scares you, that's probably a great reason to do it. (Unless it is illegal or highly likely to kill you. Weigh the risks and use good judgment.)
Staying within your comfort zone may make you feel safe, but it won't help you succeed. It won't push you to grow, and it won't lead to an adventure. Living an exciting and remarkable life happens at the edge of your comfort zone. You can't grow without crossing that threshold. When you push boundaries, you come through the experience a different person than you were at the beginning. The gift of an adventure isn't just the great memories and stories; it is the person that you become as a result.
6. Finish strong
Research has proven that we don't remember how long we enjoyed an experience. What we remember are the peaks of the experience and the end of the experience. Psychologist Daniel Kahneman dubbed it the peak-end theory. It explains why an otherwise enjoyable date will be remembered as a miserable one if in the last few seconds, your date sticks you with the bill, says something inconsiderate, or commits another hard-to-redeem offense.
When having a fun night out, people often want to extend it, hoping that it will get even better. However, it generally turns out deteriorating into something unremarkable. Many times, having an ending that spoils the whole experience makes you less willing to participate in the future. The key to remembering experiences positively is to end on a good note, which may mean ending it early.
For more science-backed tips to live an exciting and fulfilling life and outrageous stories, pick up a copy of The 2 AM Principle: Discover the Science of Adventure, on sale now.