Most people would agree that humans are somewhat adaptable. However, as we age, we allow societal norms to become ingrained and we lose faith in ourselves; the belief, not the ability to adapt is what diminishes. I know this because we say things like, “Oh kids are so resilient” but then turn around and say, “The older I get, the harder it is to change.” We are convinced that there are certain rules placed on our bodies and our psyche that prevent us from being adaptable. Experiencing extremes in life can promote adaptability, which is simply a key to growth. For example, it has been said that immersing the body in alternating hot and cold water can jump-start the immune system response. Experiencing this extreme change in water temperature is, as many would say, not as bad as the anticipation of getting into cold water. In other words, we may have a tendency to fear the extreme but once we become familiar with it, we realize how absurd that fear really was. I think it would be safe to say that for many of us, as we age, we become more fearful of the unknown and less likely to take chances to experience extremes.
There are countless ways of experiencing extremes in life. Of course, I rely on traveling as a conduit for learning life lessons and this is no different. Traveling can supply a healthy dose of extremes, thus, providing copious opportunities for personal growth. I’ve seen first-time international travelers leave this country with certain perceptions only to have them shattered during their experience abroad. Pushing ourselves to experience something different or uncomfortable simply allows us to emerge with a higher sense of self-worth and adaptability.
Handling extremes comes down to acceptance of perception. We shouldn’t judge our perceptions because everything that we have experienced (public education, advertising, our upbringing) has shaped us and we have had little control over that. The sooner we can accept that our perceptions are what hold us back from experiencing life, the sooner we can move forward and experience the things that will allow us to grow. After moving from Chicago to Arizona, I said I’d never shovel another driveway in my life. I had a sort of ‘grass is greener’ perception once I got to AZ and saw no need in moving snow from one area to another when I could just drive to Flagstaff to ski and then drive back down to the Valley and go for a swim. However, today I find myself in the middle of a blizzard and have to look at my perception of extremes. I went from living on a tropical island, showering outside, and going to the beach daily, to a place that got about two feet of snow in the last twenty-four hours with a change in temperature of about 70 degrees (from Kauai to here). I can look outside and think about the insanity of it or I can put my snowshoes on and go experience the extreme. I think it’s fairly obvious what my choice will be.