“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are” Theodore Roosevelt.
Recently I read an inspiring book by Chris Guillebeau called, ‘The Happiness of pursuit – Finding the quest that will bring purpose to your life’. The author had just successfully completed his own quest, which was to visit every single country in the world before his 35th birthday.
As he travelled the world, he met many ordinary people working towards achieving their own extraordinary goal or ‘quest’. Everything from sailing solo around the world; to cooking a dish from every country in the world over a four year period; to running hundreds of marathons in a year.
The author found, by interviewing hundreds of these ‘questers’, that there appeared to be a direct link between actively taking steps towards achieving a meaningful goal, and long term happiness.
Although the majority of the stories shared were of individuals with a single focus, sometimes against all odds, often spending years of their lives working towards achieving their solo quest, it got me thinking…
If there is long term happiness to be found in the pursuit of these individual meaningful goals, maybe we could achieve the same effect by working towards a smaller but ‘shared’ goal as a family.
With young families we can often get caught up in the monotony of the everyday. The routine tasks that need to be done over and over, day after day, in efforts to keep everyone fed, clothed and where they need to be. But amid the responsibilities and commitments of family life, surely we all need to break out of our routines once in a while and seek a little adventure!
Truth be told, we probably won’t be following in the tyre tracks of the family that cycled 17,000 miles (approx 27,500km) from Alaska to Argentina any time soon. However, we can apply the principles of a quest for own ‘everyday adventure’, or ‘mini’ quest.
According to The Happiness of Pursuit, a quest must have the following characteristics: a clear goal; measurable progress; a sense of calling or mission; and sacrifice… or at least effort.
Hubby and I discussed what we should do as our first ‘mini’ quest (we’re looking forward to being able to include our kids more in the decision making process as they get older). We pondered the characteristics of a quest as well as our other current commitments, the ages and stages of our kids, and what we’d like to do more of as a family. We wanted the goal to be a challenge but also achievable, so we decided to go on seventeen family walks before the end of 2017.
1. A clear goal
Our goal is to go on seventeen walks together as a family by the end of 2017 and explore a different walking track each time.
2. Measurable progress:
Firstly, we found a list of walking tracks on our local Council’s website. We then chose seventeen walks nearby that were rated as ‘easy’ (we wanted to ensure Mr 2 would be able to walk the track with us and not need to be carried the majority of the way!). We’re considering making this a yearly ‘mini’ quest (i.e. 18 walks in 2018, 19 in 2019 and so on). As the kids get older we’ll be able to increase the number of walks as well as their difficulty.
I typed up the list of seventeen walks with a box beside each. We measure our progress by marking off each walk as we complete them. So far, we have four lovely big ‘ticks’ against the names of the four walking tracks we’ve completed so far. We’ve also put dates for the remaining walks on the calendar throughout the year. This will certainly help keep us progressing towards achieving our goal.
3. A sense of calling or mission:
Our mission is to spend regular time together as a family, distraction free, and out in nature. We want to become tourists where we live and discover places we’ve never seen before. We’re also keen to embrace ‘frugal’ family fun. All the walking tracks we visit are free and we take our own water bottles and food. So the main expense is the cost of petrol to get to the starting point of each track.
4. Sacrifice… or at least effort:
No matter what we do in life, when we choose to spend time on one thing there’s always the opportunity cost of not being able to spend that time on something else. The ‘sacrifice’ may mean removing something else from your schedule for a while. That’s why it’s important to come up with a goal that’s meaningful to you and the members of your own family. So if things get difficult, or other opportunities arise, you’ll be able to encourage each other to keep going.
Whether we complete seventeen walks in 2017, or if we do the same walk twice instead of a different walk each time, doesn’t really matter. ‘The effort is the reward’. It’s about pursuing a meaningful goal as a family, having fun together along the way and, most importantly, spending time with each other. Essentially, connecting with a common purpose. Even though we’ve only completed four walks so far, it’s proven worthwhile already.
There are so many free or inexpensive ‘mini’ quests you could do with your own family. It really depends on what you might enjoy doing together and what your family considers meaningful. Check out some ‘mini’ quest ideas below for inspiration or come up with your own. The numbers and time frames are purely examples. Any of these ideas can be adapted to suit the ages, interests and budget of your own family members.
‘Mini’ Quest Ideas:
- Try a different sport every month for a year. Anything from backyard cricket and soccer on the local oval; to beach volleyball and indoor rock climbing.
- Cook a meal from 10 countries. Maybe choose countries you’ve travelled to or that you’d like to travel to one day.
- Learn a language together. There are many free apps available to help learn a language. Duolingo is a great place to start.
- Go camping 10 times in one year. Stay in a different location each time.
- Plant 10 trees in one year. Either in your own garden or in a community garden. Check out Landcare’s Dirty Hands Club if you’re in Tasmania and work with them once a month for a year.
- Perform a random (or not so random) act of kindness each month for a year.
- Go to a free community event in your local area once a month for a year. Free local community newspapers or community calendars online are a great resource for finding out what’s on where you live.
- Have a family night once a week for a year. Play a board game, work on puzzles, teach your kids how to play card games. Uno is a good one for young kids. Hopefully you’ll want to continue weekly family nights even after the set time frame. Starting as a ‘mini’ quest might be a good opportunity to create the habit if this is something you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t started yet. If you have very young children you might want to make it a family ‘afternoon’ on a weekend, rather than night. You’ll still be creating the habit but it won’t interfere with bedtimes!
- Visit 10 local museums, art galleries or historic sites in a year.
- Go Geocaching once a month for a year. Geocaching is great fun at any age. Especially for anyone who likes searching for hidden treasure!
- Visit a different playground every month for a year. You could keep track of each playground and rate them for future reference. Which playground had the best swings? The longest slide?
- Work on a community service project together (e.g. visit elderly people staying in a local nursing home for one hour every month for a year).
- Have a family movie night once a month. Maybe give it a global feel by watching a child appropriate movie from a different country each time.
- Raise a certain amount of money for a cause you care about. Friends of ours have worked with their young daughters to hold a number of charity garage sales over the past few months. They sold their own excess items as well as those donated from others. All funds raised have gone directly to Water for a Village to build wells in Ethiopia.
- Have a screen free and gadget free weekend every month for a year.
The possibilities really are endless. Your ‘mini’ quest doesn’t need to be expensive or overly time consuming. It will take some effort to decide on your shared goal and keep working towards it together but it’ll be worth it. The best part is, you can start taking the first step this week!
“Why pursue a quest [or ‘mini’ quest]? Because each of us in our own lives is writing our own story, and we only have one chance to get it right.” Chris Guillebeau
Hopefully working towards ‘mini’ quests will inspire you and your family to conquer even larger goals together in the future.
- Make some time this week with your family to come up with a ‘mini’ quest to work towards together.
- Outline your plan based on the four characteristics above.
- Determine the very next action you’ll need to take to be able to reach your goal, then do it!
- Get some key dates on the calendar and make it happen.
- Have fun!
Let me know in the comments below if you and your family decide to pursue your own ‘mini’ quest. I’d love to hear about it.