Posted on May 25, 2010 by Colin

Don’t Build Your Own Boxes

 

I’m an adventurer! A vagabond! A nomad with nothing to lose but so much to gain! I live for thrills and am only bored when I’m not defying death, taming lions, eating fire, etc etc etc.

Sometimes this is true, but most of the time it’s not. I enjoy taking risks, but not the kind that many thrill-seekers obsess over.

I went skydiving once. It was a lot of fun, but it’s not something I’ll do again any time soon. Why would I? It was a solid experience, but the adrenaline alone isn’t enough to keep me coming back. Honestly I get a lot more of a thrill from taking business risks. Social risks.

The knowledge that I’ve created something valuable or allowed someone to see another facet of the world or successfully challenged myself (whether the result is a failure or a success) is much more enticing to me than jumping from reaaalllly high up.

And it’s with this in mind that I find myself here in a coffee shop in Queenstown while my friend Mark and my sister Katie spend the day white water rafting and bungee jumping.

The Tradeoff

I actually spent a long time last night thinking this over, because a big part of my philosophy is to say yes to opportunities when they arise (which is what led to the skydiving experience several weeks ago).

There were many things conspiring in favor of the decision I made, however. One is that my sister came into town about 10 days ago, so I’ve been in the near-constant company of someone else for a lot longer than I have for the better part of a year. Another is that my sister is a VERY different person than I am when it comes to worldview, personal philosophy, travel style and just about everything else. She’s also my older sister, so she has an ingrained need to give a lot of (well-meaning but not-always-applicable) advice.

Another major bullet-point is that I’ve got about 10 days worth of emails to answer, projects to work on, meetings to attend, and on and on. I’ve been able to pick off the little tasks in between shopping trips and day trips to the New Zealand countryside, but anything that would take longer than a few minutes has been left to attract dust.

Last was the realization that I was stressed, something that I haven’t been in a long time. The combination of the above factors, plus a last-minute speaking opportunity all conspired to droop my default smile into a wistful horizontal line.

And there I was, about to overtax myself further and worsen my mood because of a rule I had set for myself.

There’s a valuable lesson here, for myself and for anyone else who holds themselves to high standards, and it is to not fall prey to dogmatism EVEN IF THE IDEA IS YOUR OWN.

There are exceptions to every rule, and as nice as it would have been to cross white water rafting and bungee jumping off my list of extreme things that people always ask if I’ve done, it would have been foolish of me to spend my day doing something I didn’t feel up to – worsening my mood and potentially my health – just because I told myself I would.

Don’t leave the world’s boxes behind just to crawl inside of one you’ve built yourself.