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The Secret to a Joyful Life

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My daughter just turned 7. She loves life. Whether it's splashing in a fountain, painting her latest masterpiece, or reading for hours alone in her room, she throws herself 100 percent into what she is doing.

She overflows with joy.

Most of us were like this as kids. Energetic. Curious. Enthusiastic. Happy.

Somewhere along the way though, we lose our excitement for life. Whether by neglect or because of outside pressure, we start playing it safe. We give up on our dreams.

As a result, life gets boring. We want to experience joy and happiness but aren't sure how. We want to live vitally.

Fortunately, you can re-kindle your zest for life by doing just one thing.

Go on an adventure. Yes, an adventure. Here's why.

The French writer and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry perhaps explains it best: "It is in the compelling zest of high adventure and of victory, and in creative action, that man [people] finds his [their] supreme joys."

Adventure. Creativity. Victory.

These are powerful words and your blueprint for a better life.

Just thinking about a new adventure quickens our pulse and gives us energy. Planning for one sparks our imagination. And living adventurously ignites our passion and fills us with zest and joy.

Very simply, we are most alive, and at our best, when we push the boundaries of what is possible in the pursuit of something we love.

This is the power of adventure.

But, for many of us, living adventurously seems unrealistic or beyond what we are capable of doing.

Just the word adventure conjures up images of mountain climbing, desert treks, or deep sea diving; places we could never imagine ourselves going.

Adventures, however, come in all size and forms. Dipping your toes in a fountain might not seem like one, but to a 7-year-old girl it is. Cold water with the possibility of monsters lurking beneath the surface... all very scary and quite adventurous!

An adventure is anything that involves doing something new, a measure of risk, and an unknown outcome.

You don't have to scale Mt. Everest to live adventurously. You can start right where you are.

Here's how.

Begin in a way that is commensurate with your courage. If you've made bold moves in the past, go big. If you've never tried anything risky, start small.

I call this stretch and stability. For an adventure to be meaningful, it has to stretch you beyond where you currently are. We grow best when we're being challenged.

But, your goal can't be so far beyond your experience and expertise that you're doomed to fail. Begin where you have some familiarity, some sense of stability.

I have a friend who, after raising three children, wanted to serve outside of the home. She had never volunteered before so she wasn't sure where to start and was a bit nervous to try. A voracious reader, I suggested that she volunteer at the local library. She mustered the courage and went to the library. They asked her to lead a youth reading circle.

The night before her first session, she could hardly sleep because she was so nervous. But seeing her afterwards you would never have known. She radiated enthusiasm. "Oh my gosh. It was amazing," she blurted out (normally she's pretty reserved). "I can't wait to go back, and I've got ideas to connect with the kids even better."

This is the power of adventure. It ignites our creativity and causes us to dream and do big things.

Are you living adventurously? If not, now is the time to start. Take the plunge. Go on a trip. Learn a new language. Take up a hobby. Start a business. Whatever it is, do something you've never done before and ask people to help you get to where you want to go.

Being adventurous takes courage. But it is worth it.

It is in the unknown that we discover ourselves. It is also here that we are most alive and make the greatest impact. It is here that we find joy.

I'd love to hear how you live adventurously. Join the conversation by leaving a comment or email me directly.

Dr. Frank Niles is a social scientist, adventure athlete, executive coach, and speaker. Learn more about Frank at and Contact Frank at frank [at]

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