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Have you ever had a moment outside where you had to decide between doing the easy thing and the hard thing? Or the planned thing and the side road?
I have this happen a lot. First of all, it’s kind of wild that you have to decide. I mean you’re out there at all — which is truly already choosing the hard thing, especially during the very cold or very hot seasons — why do we then have to decide whether to take things up a notch and do something even harder?
But I digress. The moment of decision looks like this. You’re standing outside, maybe at a literal crossroad. Someone says or you ask yourself the question: should we go this other way instead? This other way is often harder or, if not harder, includes many unknowns. This way is often full of questions and risk. What if it’s too hard? What if it simply takes longer and you run out of snacks? What if it isn’t what you imagined this adventure to be? What if, what if, what if.
But there you are, with the decision before you. What do you do?
I find that the more time I spend outside, the more I encounter these decision points. Maybe it’s a gift of my outdoor time — or maybe it’s just a natural side effect. They’re decisions I never had to make while sitting on my couch watching Netflix, where the hardest choice was over which show to start or restart. I head outside with a specific plan or decision of what I’m going to do that day, wander down my designated path or trail and then realize that if I go one way — different and new. Or I could go the same old way and find the things I already know to be true.
You know how I like consistency. You know which path I want to take.
But the more I am outside, I also find I am increasingly likely to take on the challenge and to do the hard thing. When I first started going outside daily, I took the path of least resistance, often quite literally, without fail. But now? Now when I am at the real or proverbial fork in the road, I often pick the challenge.
Earlier this week that looked like simply walking an extra loop in the woods, a decision that took us to some recently downed trees and up a different path. It was saying yes to a snowshoe run when I didn’t know how my hip, which I had surgery on in September 2020, would handle it. And it was venturing down a non-groomed and, yes, in the end, very challenging, ski trail as darkness fell instead of taking the same path I’d already skied twice over the week. Effort, sweat, extra time and a magical sense of accomplishment big and small was the result of all of these decisions.
Learning how to say yes to the challenge, or not just say yes but to go hunting for it even subconsciously or to welcome it when it finds you, is one of the tools you learn when you spend time outside, according to many of the experts I’ve interviewed over my nearly two years of doing this podcast. It’s a grittiness that translates into my everyday life, too. I don’t look for challenges or maybe I do look for them, but I don’t KNOW that I’m looking for them, in my everyday indoor life. But when I find them, I have a sense that I can handle them just like I’ve handled many outdoor challenges before. I know that indoor things will feel scary – whether it’s work or deciding to take on new learning or relationship risk — but that I know how to battle through the hard stuff to get through the other side. These aren’t necessarily things I think about actively — but they are things that I just simply know because I have learned them over and over again during my time outside.
One of the best ways to push yourself to take a challenge is to sign up and create some accountability. That’s why we have the Humans Outside 365 Challenge kits created by me for you. These kits are designed to give a little extra push as you sign up for something, put a little skin in the game and then get the help and information you need to make you successful. The different levels come with different rewards for your efforts, and you should check them out at humansoutside.com/challenge. You’ll even get an extra 10% off the kits through December with the code podcastfan – all one word, podcastfan, exclusive for podcast listeners.
You can see photos of my outdoor time, including all the challenges I tackle, at @humansoutside on Facebook and Instagram. And I want to see your time too. Please share with #humansoutside365. I can’t wait to see you out there.