Adventures in Going Nowhere
What magical things have you experienced this year? What places did you visit? What were the most defining triumphs and setbacks?
For me, the most (un)remarkable thing this year was making a decision to change my dentist of 17 years, and what followed.
I didn’t go anywhere extraordinary. In 2016, I spent more time staying put than any other year.
All of my trips and outings were within 20 kilometers of where I live (about 12.5 miles).
It wasn’t intentional, but one change lead to another. And when I realized what was happening, I decided to fully embrace it.
On the surface not going places may appear boring. And worse, it may lead to stagnation and stuckness.
This wasn’t true for me. What I experienced was the exact opposite. I’ve learned some lessons, and I’ve definitely made some mistakes.
In other words, it’s possible to grow even when we stay in the same environment, and do the same things.
Today I want to share with you the most important insights and lessons I learned from going nowhere.
I hope you can use some of these ideas in your life—wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing. And, maybe, feel inspired to have your own at (or close to) home adventures.
So here we go.
The remarkable effect of one tiny change
This year, after 17 years, I finally decided to change dentists. The decision wasn’t easy, but it was the right thing to do.
I accepted that it’s become more difficult for my family to waste more than a couple of hours to go see the dentist in the heart of downtown.
This change empowered me to make other decisions in completely unrelated areas. I decided to close an investing account that I’ve had for over 15 years, and cancel financial subscriptions that I’ve had for 10 years.
In my household, we cut our doctor’s visits by half and continued to shop locally. We eliminated more stuff and replaced old bulky furniture with lighter and simpler options.
All the changes resulted in time and money savings that could be put to better use.
I can honestly say with all the challenges this year, I’ve felt more at peace—and more awake—than I’ve ever been. And it all started with one change.
Every little choice brings you closer to what you value most.
Values have priorities (certain values are more important than others)
I value loyalty and long-term relationships immensely. And my dentist is one of the professionals I’ve known, and trusted, for many years.
As years went by and I struggled with the two-hour commute and required planning, I realized that peace of mind is more important than loyalty—to me.
Once you frame a decision based on your most cherished value, it gets easier.
After I made the switch, I realized that it wasn’t loyalty, but my own hang-ups that stood in the way, which brings me to my next point.
Fear can hide beneath our most important values
When I stopped, and looked within, I realized that there was fear of change underneath loyalty.
The fear of change was based on lack. I was afraid that I wouldn’t find another dentist who is as good and honest as mine.
But I did. I found someone equally good, and within a five-minute walk from my house.
If you’re struggling with a decision, and have values attached to it, pay attention to your excuses to uncover the fears holding you back.
Find (or make) your own way
Earlier this year I had to deal with a family situation that confined me to my parents’ home of over a month. When I felt restless, I paced back and forth in a hallway, or room.
I started with five minutes here or there and built up to 30 minutes. Then I decided to turn it into a practice. Over the course of a year, I walked for over 100 hours, and that’s with many days off.
Most situations have options that may not appear enticing. Walking indoors, especially in your house, may not be as appealing as walking in a park, or hiking a scenic trail. That is true. But it still gets you moving when other alternatives are not an option.
Look at the areas in your life where you feel stuck. Is there one thing that can help you right now? It doesn’t matter if it’s boring, or silly. It will get you started.
The skill of being at home (at peace), wherever you are
Life is full of surprises, good and not so good. If we learn to embrace the life we’re given, we’ll feel at peace with whatever options we choose, and those that are sometimes chosen for us.
We can start right at home, where we spend most of our time outside of work.
Being at peace is a skill that gets better with practice.
How do you know you’re making progress? When you notice that you’re still in this place, and don’t wish to be anywhere else.
Being at peace with your environment, your choices, and, most importantly, yourself is the truest form of happiness.
Mistakes and oversight
Staying put can be transformative and wonderful but, like everything else in life, it comes at a cost. The most important tradeoffs that I failed to rectify this year are listed below.
Absence of time boundaries: I failed to set boundaries around my productive time. And everything became fair game.
Unfinished projects: The ease of distraction, and lack of focus, resulted in scattered efforts without a tangible outcome.
Letting things slip: The seductive freedom of not having to do anything, and feeling at peace, made it easier to stop doing things I love, like writing.
Undefined routines: Not having a system in place to reduce resistance compounded the lax attitude about not doing the things I enjoy.
All of the above issues lead to loss of momentum, and ultimately motivation. I’ve written about such problems before. But, I didn’t heed my own advice.
I still believe that being at peace is more important than being productive. When we’re at peace, we can move forward with calm intention, not reactive fear.
So, as I deal with each issue, I’ll revisit my previous thoughts and add new, hopefully more effective, ideas that I intend to share with you.
I’ll close with this reminder:
Look up, look down, look all around, look within. When you do, you’ll realize that every single moment and experience is an adventure.
I wish you my dear friend and fellow adventurer a wonderful holiday season. May 2017 be a year full of wonder and joy. I love you!
PS: I highly recommend the book The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere, that inspired the title of this article.