If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it’s lethal

Pic by Christopher Windus

“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it’s lethal.” — Paulo Coelho

The time I felt closest to death was when I got lost in the middle of the Patagonia. I didn’t do it on purpose though something inside of me pushed me in the wrong direction.

I was on vacation, in my 30’s, in the middle of the Patagonia. I was trekking at a fast pace, hoping to be the first one of the group to get to a hidden waterfall. After a while, I realized I simply wasn’t way ahead of the rest; I was lost. It was getting too late –and dark- for me to turn around.

Why didn’t I stop before? Was it the rush of the first day of vacation? Or simply something inside of me wishing to experience getting lost?

Either way, my only priority was to stay alive. I had to find a place to spend the night. I wasn’t really prepared to sleep out in the open: I neither had food nor warm clothes to protect me from the pouring rain and below zero temperatures. It was a frightening experience. Needless to say, I’ve never felt so close to death before.

The weather wasn’t the only threat: that place was a natural habitat for mountain lions. I spent the night keeping my body in motion so I could stay awake and survive the mountains.

That night wasn’t just a lesson in survival. I learned how the unexpected changes the way I see the world. It taught me to embrace the “getting lost” behavior. And to use it purposefully to unleash creativity and new possibilities.

Seven Purposeful Ways to Get Lost

“Sometimes on the way to a dream, you get lost and find a better one” –Anonymous

We live in a society that glorifies anticipation. We are always busy, we love to plan ahead, we celebrate having the “perfect” routine. Having a plan makes us feel in control. Yet that desire to anticipate events, limits our potential as human beings. It shuts down our ability to be open to new unexpected possibilities.

Getting lost helps you let go of anticipation. It frees up your mind and facilitates the encounter with the unfamiliar. Ideas will find you once you stop looking for them.

Check these seven ways to get lost with a purpose.

  1. Wander aimlessly: Learn to explore without a purpose. Especially, when you feel stuck. Take a break, go for a walk, learn to enjoy not doing anything. Emptying your mind gives room to new ideas. Learn to meditate without meditating. When I start to worry and my thoughts take control, I sit down in front of my computer. I write everything that comes to mind without filtering, not thinking about the grammar or flow, just getting out everything that’s keeping me busy. It’s like a trance that makes my thoughts disappear.
  2. Change the physical setting: Familiarity drives repetition and that’s truer when it comes to the space. The place where we work –including the physical setting, objects and décor- influences the way we see things. And, if it always look the same, we will always see the same. Get outside of your desk. I love to have a meeting while having a walk. It refreshes the mind. I push myself to work in different spaces. Or change my position or where I sit so that my view changes and my office space feels unfamiliar.
  3. Try new routes: I like to walk from the OTC train station to my office. I enjoy using new routes, I keep looking at Chicago with tourist’s eyes. Simply changing the side of the street allows me to see things differently. Trying new routes helps me get unstuck. Having fresh eyes is good to discover new ideas for writing or new things to experiment at work.
  4. Become ignorant: Being an expert on a particular field is great but can turn into a curse. We know so much about something that we stop listening. Last year, I decided to learn how to code. I felt lost as I knew nothing about coding. It pushed me to embrace a learner mindset, I felt super focused and alert. Just like when I was trying to survive that cold night in the middle of the Patagonia.
  5. Let others take the steering wheel: Similar to experts, “bosses” have a tendency to talk more than they listen to. Get lost by letting go of that “power position”. Experiment with certain projects by being part of the team and let someone else play the boss role. You’ll learn a lot about how others drive the steering wheel. It will help you reflect on you as a driver too.
  6. Create a routine of disrupting your routines: I’m not against structuring our days. Routines can help focus our time and energy. But routines can make you live on autopilot. And end up limiting you rather than helping you. My wife and I, purposefully, don’t have our own side of the bed. We switch them as a way to avoid a “mine” or “your” side territorial approach. But, most importantly, it’s a small act to remind us that we don’t want to live a life of repetition.
  7. Stop anticipating: To embrace an experimental mindset you need to realize that you cannot control all events. Life is unexpected. Learn to go with the flow, to improvise more. “Improvisation without a plan is like tennis without tennis balls”. — Lars Von Tries. But a plan without improvisation is like playing tennis but only hitting back the balls that are served where you expect them. Choose one project and manage it by being action-driven rather than by following a plan. See how it feels.

Enjoy the Pleasure of Getting Lost

“The less routine, the more life.” — Amos Bronson Alcott

I appreciate going out on my road bike with no time constraints and no specific destination in mind. I simply enjoy the view until I find myself in some unfamiliar place, and decide to turn around and find my way back home.

I love to go to a city I don’t know and wander around until I get lost, on purpose. I love to visit foreign places and follow locals to see where they go to eat. Most of the times, I end up in amazing hidden gems that provide not only great food but also a surprising experience.

Getting lost has shown me how to appreciate the unfamiliar, how to become more aware of the surprises a place has to offer. It has taught me to stop looking for a solution and let the solution find me instead.

The act of getting lost has helped me to stay focused in uncertain times, that the outcome is unclear. I learned to enjoy the feeling that everything is about to go south. It’s then that I remind myself of all the times I’ve been lost before and have managed to find my way back. It’s a nice confidence booster too.

Getting lost continues to make me uncomfortable. And I love that weird yet exciting feeling, a sign that something interesting is about to happen.

What about you? What’s your story on getting lost?

Gustavo Razzetti is a change instigator who makes your culture move you forward — not backward. He advises, writes, and speaks on team development and culture transformation.

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