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  • Oars + Alps

For the third week of our Alps Challenge, we're exploring another way to think about finding adventure in your everyday life. Matt Walker, professional adventure guide and psychologist, explores the idea of the "Learning Zone" and how we can identify it:

"When we hear the word “adventure” we likely think of Indiana Jones-type quests, vast and exciting. Maybe the word conjures images of thick forests, epic mountain peaks, or open-ocean journeys. All of those things undoubtedly bring us a sense of adventure but they aren’t what we’d call accessible. How can we enter a sphere of adventure and experience the benefits therein if we don’t have the ability to explore the rainforest or scale a mountain?"

Matt Walker tying climbing ropes

"There are three major things that I have built into my daily life that have nothing to do with my expeditions or coaching packages but all give me a sense of adventure. These are things anyone can do anytime and anywhere that I guarantee will boost your mood, engage your mind, and involve your body in ways that help you to stretch and grow—just like an actual adventure."

Concentric Circles

"I love this graphic from eMOD, a Construction safety company and app that aims to streamline—and protect—construction work and workers. While the graphic was built to address construction site safety, it applies perfectly to adventuring, facing challenges, and taking risks."

Concentric Circles for Zones of Learning

Credit: eMOD

"The center circle represents our Comfort Zone; it contains everything known, the things we’re good at, and everything we are in control of and feel comfortable with. We aren’t learning anything new and are not growing. The outer circle represents the Danger Zone; it contains our trauma response, anxiety, exhaustion, and pushing beyond our capacity. Because our systems are overloaded and taxed, we are unable to take in or apply new information, we aren’t growing here either. The middle circle is the Learning Zone; it contains healthy challenge, engagement, and growth. This is the sweet spot and while it applies to adventuring it also applies to our daily lives.

Many of us are already familiar with our Comfort Zone and are probably pretty clear on our Danger Zone, too. But do you know where your Learning Zone is? What activities and goals present you with enough challenge to feel uncomfortable but not so much that your system shuts down? A great place to start is by identifying the activities you have currently mastered—the ones that might fall into your Comfort Zone—and take them one step further." 

How to Find Your Learning Zone

"Here are some examples of how to experiment with this today:

Take an inventory of your Comfort Zone. What are all of the activities you do that you are proficient at? Cooking certain meals, taking certain exercise classes, surfing, the job you’re currently in, everything.

The next step is to identify how you can uplevel just enough to be comfortably uncomfortable. Some examples would be:

  • If you practice yoga at the same level every week, try moving up to the next level’s class.
  • If you enjoy cooking but are always cooking the same things, try a more intricate and challenging recipe.
  • If you surf the same beach every weekend, try another location with a slightly more challenging break.
  • If you’ve been in the same job for years, apply for that promotion or think about a teaching or training position in your field. 

Knowing where we are and then clarifying what we want is the key to opening ourselves up to a zone of learning which leads to increased growth and fulfillment. 

What’s one thing you can do to enter your Learning Zone today?"

• • •

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