“The road is always better than the inn.”
~ Miguel de Cervantes
Habits and routines are useful tools that help us simplify the world, making it manageable enough for us to confidently navigate and experience; it can even be said that they are critical to the achievement of goals and maintenance of every day life, promoting consistency and discipline. Despite its utility, habit and routine can cause our life to become methodical and bland, void of the joy and novelty necessary for a fulfilling life. It is therefore necessary, on occasion, to force ourselves out of our comfort zones and into the unknown. I reckon the mid-life crisis strikes those who, after living busy and repetitive lives for 35 or 40 years, one day realize that they have less time left than they have lived already and have neglected their inner desires, drives, and passions for the comforting embrace of routine and the societal status quo. Seeking new experiences and knowledge can help to renew that vigour for life that often dissipates as we age and grow into adulthood. Below, I propose three ways we can continually challenge ourselves throughout life to avoid that dreadful mid-life crisis.
Pursuit of Knowledge
It is possible for an old dog to learn new tricks, however he has to believe he has the time, ability, and desire to learn those tricks, and be willing to shed his former self in exchange for a new self. The constant pursuit of knowledge, for example through reading and teaching, forces us to challenge long held beliefs and grow as individuals. Pursuing the intellectual interests that you have hidden from the world, and often yourself, can provide one with new reasons to wake up in the morning outside of the need to procure resources for living. Every day is an opportunity to explore the depths of your mind and personality — learning new languages, trialing new ways of thinking, and discovering new knowledge are all key to keeping one’s life rich and meaningful. Whilst we chase money and status, we squander our most valuable resource, time; let us put our ourselves first, and follow that voice inside of us that begs to be heard.
Pursuit of Beauty
Humans are sensual beings — we have a deep connection and sensitivity to what we hear, see, smell, taste, and touch. For this reason, all humans have a natural affinity for great works of art and nature, whether it be a natural waterfall or a masterful musical composition. Our bodies, too, can be developed and molded to create works of art: those who deep dive into the world of fitness can attest to the pleasure of continually working on one’s body, pushing it to new limits, and developing a sense of bodily perfection. The ancient Greeks admired the beauty of the human body, as seen in the art and literature of the period. Exploring the beauty of nature, art, architecture, and the body is a way to continually fall in love with the human experience. To experience the joy of beauty is a uniquely human phenomenon: do not lose the opportunity to appreciate the glory of a sunrise, or the changing of the seasons. One never knows when his last sunrise has risen.
Travelling the World
To travel is to thrust yourself into the unknown. When one visits a new country, or even a new area of their town, the conditioning of their usual environment is brought to light in contrast to the new environment they find themselves in. To fully experience the benefits of travel, one must not merely visit, but live in the unknown. Living in countries with different customs, language, and lifestyles from one’s own grants an appreciation for the vast potential of human experiences available. It can be easy, after living in a certain place with a certain routine for long enough, to forget that there is a vast world out there, much different from your own. Particularly when you are young, when it is easier for many reasons to travel, one should challenge themselves with living in a new country.
“Make voyages! Attempt them. There is nothing else.”
~ Tennesse Williams
When life is seen as a great quest, an adventure to be experienced and lived, it is easier to be content with life. Trading routine and ritualistic lifestyles for the unknown is a valuable and perhaps necessary transaction for the maximization of the human experience.