I knew going into the new year that I didn’t want to just set a bunch of vague resolutions like I did in years past. Life is unpredictable (as 2020 was so keen to teach us). I’ve learned that despite your best intentions, there will always be circumstances out of your control, circumstances that will hinder and even erase progress you’ve made towards your goals. I’ve also learned that goals can change. I don’t want all the same things I wanted last year, because I’m not the same person I was then.
As readers of this blog will know, I’ve spent a lot of time learning about happiness and what it truly means to be happy. Science has shown that wealth, fame, beauty, and all the other things we as a society mistakenly chase, don’t necessarily make us happier. It’s ultimately our attitudes and how grateful we are for our circumstances that make a real difference. This is a concept many of us haven’t quite grasped. That’s why we’re so moved when we see a video of a school janitor bursting into happy tears when a group of students sings happy birthday to him or when we read about a guard at Disney World who asks little girls dressed up as princesses for their autographs. On the flip side, we’re shocked when celebrities who seem to have it all take their own lives. These stories don’t fit our idea of who’s supposed to be happy and who’s not.
I’ve been thinking about life lately and what it means to be a living, breathing person who occupies our little planet. We’re alive for a certain number of years and then one day we’re gone. That’s just a fact, but what are you supposed to do with that time here? If being wealthy and famous and having a six-pack doesn’t matter when you’re on your deathbed, what should you aspire to?
It all sounds a little nihilistic and there have been days where I’ve felt a little morbid thinking about it, but the strange thing is, I’ve also found a lot of inspiration in the idea that life is fleeting. I’ve started to think of my life as a story or a canvas. Books end, paintings are finished, but it’s up to the artist to fill it up with as much excitement and beauty and adventure and twists as possible. When you look it at that way, there are no good things and bad things. There are only experiences and, while I haven’t quite figured out the meaning of life just yet (sorry), I have decided that for me a meaningful life means getting to experience as much of it as possible.
I want to do things that scare and exhilarate me. I want to flirt with handsome strangers and travel to amazing places and learn new skills and meet interesting people. I want to fail and learn from my failures and do things I didn’t think I was capable of doing. I want to have adventures both big and small, and I want to collect good memories the way other people collect rare coins or stamps.
In one of his books, modern Stoic William Irvine talks about the concept of “Stoic adventures.” This means regularly subjecting yourself to trials where there’s a high chance of failure or rejection. Going on these Stoic adventures teaches you to be more comfortable with failures, and that there are elements of every experience that are in and out of your control.
I loved this idea. I’m a big believer in the importance of failing, but being the hypocrite I am, I also do everything I can to reduce my odds of failing. Even if that means not taking a chance in the first place.
I don’t want to live that way anymore. That’s why this year I’m going to spend every week taking on a new Stoic adventure. Some will be small things and some will be bigger things, but they’ll all be things that are hard or scary or I have a chance of failing, but will improve my life in some way. I’ll be posting about each adventure on this blog to keep myself accountable.
The first adventure of the year is doing Yoga with Adriene’s 30-day yoga challenge. This might not sound very scary but if you knew how bad I was at working out regularly, you’d understand that this is no easy feat for me. I don’t think I’ve ever worked out for 30 days in a row in my entire life. Having said that, I’m excited to share I’ve already made it to day 9 with no days skipped so far! I’ll be posting a final update once I make it to the end of the challenge.
I hope you’ll join me as I embark on this adventure (or 52 adventures). I’m a little nervous, but mostly I’m just excited. It won’t be easy, but if I can pull this off, I know it’ll be a year to remember.