The best adventures are messy – ragged around the edges, unpredictable, loose, fluid. They seem to stand far removed from the humdrum of normal life, as they cry of freedom and craziness, of excitement and surprises.

But those adventures are out of reach for those of us who stand rooted in the humdrum of normal life. Which is most of us. We will never get to taste the freedom, the craziness or excitement they offer, or experience the surprises they hold.

No, far from enjoying the wonder of adventure first-hand, those of us grounded in normality must satisfy our longings for adventure vicariously – through novels, or movies, or news reports and editorials of the achievements of others. Because, if movies, novels and newsreels are to be believed, adventures – especially the messy kind – are the sole domain of the real risk-takers – the action heroes and crazy fools who hold no regard for rules and order – the brave and reckless who live in the moment, with a sense of abandon for the future.

But movies and novels do not align with reality, and newsreels only give glimpses, at best, of how real life works.

You see, whatever movies or novels may suggest, a life filled with adventure – a life that colours outside the lines and walks the undiscovered paths – is not borne out of hedonism, or a sense of carpe-diem, or from chaos, recklessness, or a willingness to throw yourself on the mercy of chance with no regard for your own safety. No, a life of adventure is born out of intention and purpose, making room for the unexpected, and embracing the unknown. A life filled with adventure flows out of order.

And that applies to every adventure, no matter how small, or how epic – whether it’s tackling Everest, the Inca Trail or the Vendee Globe, discovering new lands or populations, building an enterprise out of nothing, or taking a new direction in work or in study, the outcome and the shape of that adventure rests on the foundation from which the journey began.

And so, you have the paradox.

To live a life filled with the best that adventure has to offer, and navigate all of the messiness that entails, you must first craft a place filled with order – a place that is tidy – from which you can step forward into the unknown, in pursuit of the unexpected.

And that takes effort.

Effort to rid yourself of distractions, so that the space in your brain is not consumed by matters of no consequence, that pull you away from your true purpose. A to-do list littered with trivial and pointless tasks. An inbox overflowing with information that you do not need to know, and newsletters and offers that you never got around to unsubscribing from. The white noise of television, social media and news that call on your attention and divert you from tackling things of real value. Distractions, all of them, that keep from your messy adventures.

Effort to protect yourself from the physical and mental boulders that threaten to destabilise your wellbeing and throw you off course. The candle that burns at both ends, eroding your energy and draining your enthusiasm. The pressures that crash against you, dulling your senses and withering your resolve. The bad habits that creep in as you toil to keep your head above water, changing what you eat, what you drink, how you exercise, and how you sleep, from that which builds you up to that which pulls you down.

Effort to stand firm, against all that would draw you towards a path far-removed from that which you were made to forge. The opinions and suggestions of those around you, who long for you to fit neatly into a box that they can understand. The norms of a society that threatens to undermine your belief in all that you hold to be true. The demands to conform to the constraints of a system into which you do not fit.

Without that effort you will never have the capacity to welcome the messiness of real adventure. If your life is messy – if you have not rid yourself of distraction, or protected yourself from the boulders that could throw you off course, or stood firm against that which would pull you off the path you were made to forge, you will always confine yourself to neat and tidy adventures. Without that effort, and without the intent, purpose and order that effort brings, your adventures will always be those that fit neatly in boxes and operate within constraints that make them predictable, and limit their potential; adventures that are a mere shadow of those that you were made to live.

So, note-to-self: get your house in order and create a tidy foundation to launch the fullness of a life filled with the glory of messy adventures, and all that life longs to offer you.

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