Why I Taught My Kids To Appreciate Getting Lost And Being Uncomfortable

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What’s the difference between being unhappy and getting out of your comfort zone?

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When my children were young, my wife and I consciously taught them the concept of “having an adventure.” Adventure doesn’t consist of excitement or thrill. Typically it involves lots of uncertainty and discomfort. It typically involves getting lost. But, when you are back home, for years afterwards, adventures constitute the stories you will will love to tell.

My dad loved adventure. He liked to drive off, explore, even if there was a danger of getting lost. “I’ll get back, eventually” he used to say. My mom hated that. She wanted everything to be well-planned. She always insisted on knowing exactly where he was.

I remember when my wife and I took our teenage children backpacking. Two days in, we found the stream was flooded; we could’t cross to follow the trail. Then it began to snow.  My daughter and I hiked up the stream, hoping to find a place where it broke into 2 segments, each one crossable. We found a huge tree had fallen, and we could (we thought) get across that — but it was covered with fresh snow …

That was an adventure. At the time it seemed miserable, but it is the story we tell.

We taught our children that they should not avoid discomfort. Discomfort is one of the signs of an adventure. Perhaps you have a new job, and you are not sure you know what you are doing. You are confused (lost) and uncomfortable. You may be in the beginning of an adventure.

That was an adventure. At the time it seemed miserable, but it is the story we tell.

I said to my (then) young daughter: let’s go out and have an adventure. We went into the nearby woods and went off-trail, oblivious to the fact that we might get lost, or that we’d encounter brush and thorns …

Maybe you took that job, knowing it would be a challenge. Now you are regretting it. Or are you?

I’ve learned in my own career to recognize the feeling. I have started looking at some new aspect of physics. I don’t understand it all, but there seems to be something that doesn’t smell right. Am I wasting my time? I feel lost. I am groping  my way. Maybe I should move back to my comfort zone. NO! This has the sense of an adventure! It may lead nowhere, but it might be the start of one of those incredible journeys that I’ll always cherish.

In fact, when I look back on my most successful projects in physics, they all started in this way.

Try to develop a sense of adventure. Don’t make every day an adventure; that could be exhausting. But make sure you have regular adventures.

Richard Muller is a professor of physics at UC Berkeley and the author of “Energy For Future Presidents.” You can read more from Quora here:

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