Lessons from the wilderness: How a change in physical environment can build strength of mind

Ben Southall

Ben and a group of startup founders on an adventure. Source: Supplied.

If Captain Cook, Columbus or Magellan were alive today, I strongly believe they would be entrepreneurs running their own startups.

The passion to explore, discover and create, which drove the early explorers, is the same desire driving today’s entrepreneurs. While the explorers were discovering the physical world we live in and pushing the geographical boundaries, entrepreneurs are doing the same thing in a digitally driven world with every startup.

There is not much opportunity left to explore the physical realm and discover what colonists considered as ‘new, wild lands’. The digital world is the new frontier and it is one often being navigated by leaders of startups by themselves.

I recently returned from an eight-day adventure through Mongolia with a group of startup founders.

The group of 15 (11 women and four men) stepped as far off the beaten track as you can get. We visited the Mongolian-Manchurian Steppe, a grassland ecoregion where we spent time with the nomadic herders who, together with the Nomadic School of Business, mapped out their current business and personal territories.

We then used the same principles to map out plans for each of the participants. When you are completely out of your comfort zone, joining herders on horseback for their annual migration, navigating frigid and frozen rivers and battling snow to the summit of Tsetsee Gun (2258m), it does change your perspective.

I am a strong believer in building resilience through tough physical activity which, in turn, helps to build strength of mind.

In today’s world, everyone seems to be perpetually digitally connected. This is a problem, and the solution is a change in our mindset. Most people I speak with say they haven’t been away from their phones for years.

The fact we are always connected digitally is causing problems for us as a society. Every so often we need to take ourselves offline.

When people do disconnect from the digital world and get out into nature, where they face unique challenges, they are more easily able to reconnect with themselves and experience greater clarity of thinking.

Key learnings from my campsite conversations

Not everyone has the time to digitally disconnect and wander through the wild to push and test themselves, but there are some things we can all do to help us find the clarity and renewed zest for business and the life we are seeking.

Here are three habits you can adopt today to help you on this path.

  1. Digitally disconnect to mentally reconnect. Attempt a no-internet Sunday or try Monday mornings with a notepad and pen instead of a computer.
  2. Take your work outside the usual office environment at least once a week. Find a quiet garden or park where you can immerse yourself in nature and just breathe.
  3. Push yourself just outside of your comfort zone, either physically, mentally or culturally, at least a couple of times a week. It’s that uncomfortable place where we grow the most as human beings.

NOW READ: Lark, middle bird or owl? How to redesign your workday to reflect your biological clock

NOW READ: In the zone: Why the world’s most successful entrepreneurs are embracing ‘flow’

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