We are sentient beings and as such there is a side to us that we often ignore, exploring.
Just what do I mean by ‘exploring’?
By exploring I do mean everything that this simple word covers. All forms of exploration should be considered but we will get onto that later. Let’s start with the literal definitions.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘exploration’ thus:
- 1. The action of exploring an unfamiliar area.
- 2. The action of exploring an area for resources.
- 3. Thorough examination of a subject.
And the Cambridge English Dictionary has the following definition:
- 1. The activity of searching and finding out about something.
- 2. The act of searching for something.
- 3. The act of going to a place to learn about it.
Interestingly, they are both quite different.
Exploring is a fundamental Lego brick of being human. It encourages learning, experimentation and helps to find new techniques to solve simple and complex challenges.
Think of it this way; almost from the moment you are born you start exploring. Exploring your mother to find nourishment, exploring your body to find your nose, exploring your cot to find your dummy, exploring how your limbs work so you can move about, exploring how much Lego you can put up your nose – and this continues until you find yourself sitting at a desk, on a train, on the loo or wherever reading this.
But when was the last time you can remember exploring? And why exactly is the need for exploration being highlighted here?
I could bang on about the need to explore from purely a digital perspective, but in thinking about and writing this I believe that this would miss the point of my epiphany and what drove to write this in the first place, so let’s get started.
From infancy, it is essential to explore. Without exploring it would be almost impossible to make the transition into adulthood. Exploration is hard baked into us genetically; we are after all hunter-gatherers and the need to explore is a survival technique ensuring that as and when it is needed, in times of crisis, it is natural and there is already experience. Exploring in the realm of an infant may not seem to us, as adults, to be exploring as we understand it, but if an infant is introduced to a new space, they will find all manner of chewable items and infant specific dangers that you had not even thought about. Just watch a toddler who has been taken to a house that isn’t “toddler proof”, and you will see what I mean!
From a child’s perspective, exploration has changed dramatically over the past decade or so. And in my opinion (and slightly obviously) not for the better. The rise of technology has meant that exploration is now about finding new Apps and journeying in software such as Roblox or Minecraft. Long gone are the days of only 4 terrestrial TV channels which meant that the habit of the couch potato had yet to fully evolve and was therefore almost unknown. Long gone are the days of self-entertaining, getting your bike out of the shed and riding round to a friend’s house to kick a ball about, seasonal sports and anticipating autumn (and the conker season) or afternoon play sessions with Lego, Barbie, Action Man, Meccano, Scalextric, Airfix etc.
Into adulthood we tend to explore less. We know where our nose is and we know what it is for and we know not to stick Lego up it (although a finger still seems ok?) and we don’t absolutely need to explore because we don’t need to learn. We get comfortable, we get used to our surroundings and our life, we become agnostic about exploring.
To be precise about my definition of adult exploration (careful now…) I am not talking about discovering a new continent, climbing an unconquered mountain (just because it is there) or forging a new trail to connect countries together for trade even if that all sounds like great fun. But I am talking about triggering an awareness that exploration can occur in almost everything you do.
Great chefs are exploring all the time. They travel to new places to sample new ingredients and dishes. They must work at exploring to keep themselves fresh, current, interesting and exciting for their diners.
Great sportsmen and women are exploring all the time. They realise that there is a difference between innate talent and skill and they explore new techniques and training regimes to maximise their ability up to their talent ceiling and even challenge this with constantly working at and increasing their skill.
Great artists explore. Great artisans explore. Great leaders, businesspeople, teachers, social-workers, doctors and great anyone’s – they’re all explorers.
Based on the use of the word great above, it seems that it would be beneficial or maybe even fun for you to explore too. But how if this is not an obvious task (such as becoming an astronaut for instance) if you are an office worker and spend most of your working week sitting at a desk. And before you ask I don’t think using Google is exploring, well not properly at least.
It is not easy to ‘just go and explore’. But you can start small and get better at it, heck that is almost the purpose of suggesting that you ignite the desire to explore in the first place. So, let’s set some ground rules as to what I think exploring is.
Exploring should be:
- • Not be normal to you
- • Challenge you
- • Make you look at ‘something’ totally differently
- • Help you find new ways of doing ‘something’
Exploring shouldn’t be:
- • Boring
- • Dangerous (well not in the context of this article, but as the world is litigative these days, I didn’t encourage you to do something dangerous, right?...)
- • Unhealthy
So, let’s quickly look at some things that you could consider exploring.
Explore your environment
This is really obvious, but just going for a walk at lunch, even when it is raining, and keeping your eyes open to what is around you will bring benefits. Personally, I really like small industrial estates, they are usually full of businesses that ‘do stuff’ and quite often there are genuinely surprising business that are worth following, looking at or learning from.
If your environment is a large office and you spend all day every day at your desk - then go and explore the building, meet some new people, talk to the janitor, the receptionist, the directors, everyone – tell them you are exploring.
Walk to the top of the hill you can see from your window, go to parts of the town or village you live in that you have never been too, keep your eyes open, see what is going on, talk to people and listen. If nothing else, the walk and fresh air will do you good.
Explore your time
Is every day based on the same routine for you? Most peoples are. How about exploring ways of shaking it up a bit? Do things in a different order, start your day earlier and finish earlier. Explore your routine, find out how much time you waste by keeping an eye on your emails ALL the time.
If you have flexi-time available to you, give it a go. See how flexi you can be and see what works best for you. If it doesn’t work, well now you know, and you won’t waste time thinking about if it could.
See what you can explore when you are not at work. Explore changing your weekend routine, do some of those fun things that you just keep thinking about but never actually do.
What did you learn from your exploration? What discoveries were made? How did it affect you? Did it change you? Does it change anything else? These are all questions to reflect on to ensure your exploring holds value after the event.
There are limitless ways of exploring, it is now up to you to recognise your inner explorer and find new, fun, stimulating and rewarding mini adventures as your make your world a bigger place.
Article & Photography: Julian Perrott