Should You or Should You Not Live Vicariously?

Living Vicariously

When I get Facebook messages and emails where people tell me they live vicariously through our adventures it used to always upset me. Our mission at The Adventure Couple is not to hear, “oh, I’m so jealous” or “I just sit here and live vicariously” it’s to hear these words:

“I’ve become inspired to have more adventure in my life, to get off the couch and go after what I want and live my life with gusto!”

The dictionary’s definition of “vicarious” is: indirect, surrogate, substitute. Who wants to live a “substitute” life? You want to live your own life, right?

Then, just the other day I was watching a video where world renowned kayaker Steve Fisher took Jackass star, Bam Margera, over a 100 foot waterfall in a tandem kayak. I realized, right then and there that I was living vicariously through their experience. That I was doing just the same thing I didn’t want others to do.

It dawned on me that perhaps there were multiple reasons why people live vicariously. That perhaps there are good and bad reasons to do this. I realized that there are at least four good reasons to enjoy the vicarious experience.

1. You don’t have the experience yet. If you are a beginning scuba diver and are looking at images of divers doing deep cave dives and feeling “jealous” that you aren’t doing it yourself, then your reason for living vicariously is that you’re not ready to do it. It’s not that you’re afraid or lazy, you simply don’t have the skills set “yet” to take your adventure to the next level. In this case, living vicariously is a great motivator.

2. It’s too extreme and there’s no f’ing way I’m going to ever try that. That’s how I felt watching the Steve Fisher video, or watching a base jumping video. I completely admire the courage (or stupidity, ha!) that drives people to those extremes but I know that I’m not going to do it anytime soon (meaning in my lifetime!). I can enjoy a rush of adrenaline living the experience second hand but not do it myself.

3. I physically can’t do it. At this point in my life, I’m never going to be an Olympic gymnast. Face the fact. But I can enjoy the Olympics vicariously, try to feel the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. In my younger years I didn’t make the choice to dedicate my life to becoming an Olympian and the time has past for that but there’s nothing wrong with living it indirectly through the up and coming stars.

4. To be happy for someone else. I may have no interest at all in becoming a snowboarding rock star but it sure is fun to watch Shawn White rip it up and share in his experience.

All those are great reasons to enjoy vicarious living, as long as you don’t spend your whole life living vicariously and never step out to your own adventurous life. However, if you live your life through someone else’s eyes for some of the reasons below, you may want to stop and think about where you’re going in your own life.

live adventurously

Are you watching from the sidelines for the right reasons?

1. Fear. Do you live through others adventures because of fear? I don’t mean the fear of walking a high wire across Niagara Falls, I mean the fear of success or failure? The fear of what others will think of you? This is the wrong reason to live your life through others.

2. Procrastination. Which probably comes back to fear in some sense. Do you say, “someday” or “when the kids are grown” or “when I lose 10 lbs”. Well, until you Decide to Decide (Principle #1 of the Live Adventurously Manifesto) you’ll never make a step closer and you’ll forever be watching the video instead of making it.

3. Time and Money. Do you use the excuses of not having the time or money to live your dreams? Shame. There are ways to get both if you have the desire, the passion and the resilience to go after it at all costs. You may need to begin to think outside the box, to develop an adventurous mind (within this link, scroll down to find the entire 6 part series on developing an adventurous mind) but it can always be done.

Take a look at the reasons why you live vicariously through others and be sure that you are doing it for the right reasons, as a motivator in your own life, not as an excuse.

What ways do you live vicariously?  Drop your awesome feedback in the comments below.

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