It’s true…against all odds and at the surprise of so many people…I’m not dead yet. Seems morbid maybe, but the truth of it is: I’ve had a LOT of near-death experiences, probably too many for one lifetime! I definitely live up to my name (Kat)…except instead of 9 lives, I seem to have dozens. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going out of my way to kill myself…only stating the actuality behind the numerous occasions when something simple turned into a very complicated situation or when something stupid turned out to be just that…stupid. When telling the story of my life, there are many times I wouldn’t consider to be life-threatening, but strangely enough other’s tend to disagree. Amongst these I might count skydiving in the desert of Arizona, walking around the top of an active volcano in Indonesia, hiking up a sulfur mine to the largest acidic lake in the world, accepting a trip with a Vietnamese local whom I’d just met, and traveling on my own throughout the world…just to name a few.
The fact of the matter is, everything can be a near-death experience when something goes wrong. I’m not looking for danger, but I’m not avoiding things in life just because there’s a greater fear around the idea of this specific activity. If we look at the statistics of death by car and motorbike around the world, the numbers are STAGGERING! And yet these are frequented, dangerous activities that we’ve somehow learned to live with, many times without giving it a second thought! There are far more deaths by these kinds of accidents than by plane crashes, skydiving accidents, falling into volcanos, sulfur inhalation and traveler abduction. Trust me, I’ve been in car and motorbike accidents which were far worse and have been much more terrifying than a lot of the crazy activities I’ve intentionally participated in.
So why all the bad press about these other kinds of risks? Why are people so quick to be afraid of something with a much lower mortality rate than their daily lives offer them? Part of it is purely naivety…lack of information and education can leave people afraid of things which are so uncommon and unknown to them. Another contributing factor is misunderstanding. If we look at the mortality rates and horror stories involved around these less-frequented activities, you’re highly likely to find that they’re mostly being caused by user error or blatant stupidity. When someone is doing a backflip on the ledge of a building or volcano to get a good picture for their Instagram feed and then falls to their death, as sad as it is…and it IS tragic…it’s COMPLETELY idiotic and avoidable! For most of the people I know who consider themselves high-adrenaline junkies, they’ve researched what they do and are following the rules of safety within the activities with which they participate in order to AVOID injury and death. The goal is the energy rush, NOT DYING.
In a world where there’s so much stress it seems to me that people are choosing to fear
ANYTHING which might be out of the ordinary to them. Funny thing is: fear, itself, can be a type of adrenaline rush and addiction. When someone is knowingly choosing to NOT make changes in life and avoiding anything that might possibly have a risk to it, they’re constantly causing themselves unneeded stress. The rule of nature is, the more you do something the less scary it becomes! Just frequency of activities that cause you to continually stretch your comfort-zone will lower your “normal” stress response. For many people now days, even talking to strangers gives them the equivalent anxiety of being attacked by a wild and ferocious animal…but if you ask me, I’d much rather save that reaction for when I’m actually being chased by a mountain lion!
“The more you seek the uncomfortable, the more you will become comfortable.” Connor McGregor.
Strangely enough, doing the things that make us uncomfortable will make us more comfortable with the things that cause us discomfort. Think about that for a minute. It’s like you’re practicing in order to regulate a more healthy response to less-frequent stimuli. It shouldn’t be a rare activity to do things which are outside of the norm. In fact, part of life fulfillment and happiness is the diversity of our life experiences. The more “routine” without variation life is…the more unhappy people tend to be. It’s true, there’s a certain aspect within us which prefers a certain degree of regularity, predictability and perceived safety…but there’s also a part with requires uncertainty and variation! Again, this doesn’t mean you need to go take up extreme sports or start running in front of cars to get an adrenaline rush (Please DON’T do that!), but there is a psychological and physiological NEED for you to do things out of the ordinary on a regular basis. This could be taking a weekend trip, trying a new kind of food, going to a social event, talking to a stranger on the subway, making new friends, learning a new language, taking a class, taking up a new hobby…anything to mix it up!
Moral of the Story: When we’ve regularly allowed ourselves to explore the unknown (however we may choose) the natural consequence is a level of flexibility and greater life satisfaction because the regular and mundane activities will lose part of their unnecessary pressure and perceived significance, thereby allowing us to better focus on more important, intentional aspects of our lives. The more we choose our experiences and the less frequently we find ourselves responding with stress, the happier our lives will be!