Choose to Focus on the 99% of People Who Are Great

Expedition Canada
The start of "Expedition Canada 150" ©Philippe Roberge

Starting a journey of more than 8000 km based on 150 dollars and the generosity of strangers sounds a bit scary and crazy. Ori and a friend decided to do just that and share what this experience has taught them about being optimistic.

One day, two students from Canada realized that they did not know 99% of their country. On the occasion of the 150th birthday of Canada they decided to change something about that. Shortly afterwards they started their project “Expedition Canada 150”. This expedition stretched from Whitehorse, Yukon, on the west coast of Canada to St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, on the east coast – a distance of over 8000km. The catch? They have given themselves only $150 to do it.

I asked Ori, how this adventure had given him insights into being optimistic. He replied: “I think our optimism during ‘Expedition Canada 150’ came from two places. The first we had prior to the trip, while the second we realized during the trip.

The chance of being attacked by a lion

Humans are naturally drawn to magnify the negative consequences in life. Some psychologists stipulate that this stems from an evolutionary mechanism. That is, if something negative happened in the past (i.e. your friend got attacked by a lion) then you would remember it strongly. You would always have an increased anxiety when seeing or thinking about a lion in the future. Fortunately, we don’t live with a constant threat of being attacked by wild animals anymore. But we do live with other threats and that same mechanism kicks in.

For our trip it was the probability that someone would try to hurt us or take advantage of us in our vulnerable state. Statistically, it is possible, but it is a very small chance. However, most people will focus on exactly this slim chance of something negative happening and they build it up to something much bigger than it is. We saw this by how many people telling us our trip would never work, “it is too dangerous”, and every excuse you can imagine. I think we both chose to focus on the 99% of people who are great and the likelihood of us meeting them.

Thus, the classic saying “seeing the glass half full or empty” has proven to be pretty accurate in our case. How you choose to focus your attention can directly impact your optimism about something.

A baseline of gratitude

This realization came to us during our journey. Throughout the whole trip we found ourselves being hosted by strangers we never met before. One thing that was common amongst the people who hosted us was that they frequently expressed their admiration for our trip and regret for never having done something like that themselves.

It’s funny because throughout the whole expedition we often felt as if we were wasting our time. We sometimes wondered whether we should rather be home getting work experience or enjoying the comforts of the summer. We then realized that humans naturally look to what others have and can easily forget to be grateful for what they have themselves. Creating a baseline of gratitude for what you have really helps in realizing how fortunate you are and can give you that much more energy to go out and achieve whatever it is you want.

Ori’s expenses for the trip ultimately amounted to $9.99; exceeding even his wildest expectations. He is left with feelings that can perhaps best be described as a mixture of happiness, disbelief and gratitude. He summarizes those feelings and thoughts with the following words:

“After this trip the level of kindness and good people that exist across Canada has surpassed anything I imagined. At no time we were threatened or felt uncomfortable. This made me realize how built up fears can be taken out of proportion and can lead to isolation from one another. This experience has made me realize the importance of coming together especially in a country as large and spread out as Canada.”

Thanks for reading and thank you, Ori, for sharing your story.

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