Last updated on 25th April 2010
Yesterday I wrote about climbing three of the Mamores here in the Highlands. For the last couple of years in the Spring (before the midges) I've gone camping and walking in the Scottish hills - last year in Glen Affric and the year before in the Fainnichs. I've written too about trekking in the Sahara. Walking for days on end really "helps my head". It gives me perspective on my life and uncorks a creativity I find it hard to connect to in the busy-ness of my usual day-to-day living. It takes time to "uncrumple my brain". Yesterday's walk was great, but not really long enough to uncrumple.
This thing of timing and location is fascinating. Coming away for a few days allows space for things to happen that probably wouldn't in a more familiar, more constricted container. I see it in group work. I can meet with the same bunch of people over a series of evenings. Certain kinds of good, worthwhile process happen in the meetings. I can get together with the same people away from our usual lives for a few days in the country. Different things happen. Deeper. This is a major reason I love working in residential groups - see reports for example from last May and last November. And it's not just the duration, its the "coming away" too. I often advise couples who I'm working with to make regular time to go out together - a meal, a coffee, a walk, theatre, film. Different things happen, different qualities of interaction, when we're away from our base. Maybe this is particularly so for me - I work from home. And it seems true for many others I talk with too.
So there's a wisdom about time and location - how long we allow for things and where we do them. There's a wisdom too about "investing" in activities rather than just material possessions. Carter & Gilovich published earlier this year on "The relative relativity of material and experiential purchases" commenting that "When it comes to spending disposable income, experiential purchases tend to make people happier than material purchases". At my birthday last week, a friend said "I want to give you a present of an experience rather than a thing". I wondered about sky-diving, but now I wonder more about a couple of days' introduction to rock climbing. I can "scramble" - hill walking where you have to get your hands out of your pockets - but I don't know how to set up a belay or use a rope for simple safety. I check out courses at two websites that I respect a good deal - Stuart Johnston Mountaineering and Glenmore Lodge. There's nothing over dates that suit me, so I email them about tailor-made courses for me and friend or two. Then, since I'm up and running, I add queries to Glenmore Lodge and Beyond Adventure about another "dream" - paddling 60 miles or so down the Spey river with a group of friends.
People, who have visited this blog much, may know I'm a big fan of "Self-determination theory" - see for example the website page "Wellbeing, time management & self-determination". The theory argues convincingly that living organisms thrive when they have their needs met. For humans, key needs centre around Autonomy, Competence, and Relatedness. There are slides highlighting these points - "Psychological needs & wellbeing 1" and "Psychological needs & wellbeing 2". There are many reasons why I want to walk in the hills. Even in poor weather, there's real pleasure in "Competence". It's very good to have sorted a warm enough sleeping bag, a good sleeping mat and tent, to be competent at cooking on a camping gas ring. It's very good to develop skill in reading a compass, using a map, knowing how to kick-step across snow, even when and how to use an ice axe! There are times when it's great to do this on my own - and times when it's great to do it with friends. Diener & colleagues have written about "Balance in life ... " and happiness. An art to life. It can be a real gift to be alive ...