As we progress along our year-long series on FabYOUlous Changes for a FabYOUlous Life, I think it is appropriate that January’s change is do something new & different because the onset of a new year is when all of us start thinking about the new things that we’d like to experience in the new year.
The challenge however, lies not in the wanting of new things but in the experiencing of those things. Experiencing new things means getting out of bed, out of our head and out of our comfort zones–all things that are MUCH easier said than done.
Even though I blog about personal development and encourage women to ditch the drab and find their FAB, I too struggle on occasion when it comes to busting through my comfort zone and expanding my horizons. That’s why I’ve chosen the word BRAVE to be my “word of the year” for 2017. I (just like many of you, I suspect) long to experience new things but sometimes balk at the idea of actually taking action on those things. This is my year to change that and I hope that you’ll join me!
Now, as a disclaimer–I am not saying that we all need to run out and start flinging ourselves out of airplanes or go bungee jumping off the Royal Gorge. Both of those things get a big HELL NO from me. What I am saying however, is that there is great benefit to be found when we muster the courage to tiptoe out of our comfort zones and allow ourselves to be exposed to new and different experiences. In fact, in an article from CNN, cognitive psychologist, Gary Marcus writes about the positive impact that trying new things has on both our physical and emotional well being. In his article, Marcus writes…
“As Aristotle realized, there is a difference between the pleasures of the moment (hedonia), and the satisfaction that comes from constantly developing and living one’s life to the fullest (eudaimonia). In recent years, scientists have finally begun to study eudaimonia. Research suggests that the greater sense of purpose and personal growth associated with eudaimonia correlates with lower cortisol levels, better immune function, and more efficient sleep.”
By embracing a willingness to try new things, we expand our horizons by not only learning more about the world around us, but also by learning more about ourselves. For example, I never fully realized my affinity for being on the water until I tried stand up paddle boarding. Now, I LOVE being on, near, in or around water as much as possible. Something about water (even rain) is incredibly soothing to my psyche and gives me a profound sense of being “home” (which is strange considering the fact that I grew up in dry, landlocked Kansas??) Now that I know this about myself, I am constantly looking for ways to incorporate water into my life–including making plans to one day buy a house somewhere near the ocean or on a large lake. This is something that I never fully recognized about myself until I tried the new activity of paddle boarding.
Not all new things will lead to the Zen like experience that I had when I first tried stand up paddle boarding, but that’s okay. There is still power in the trying. Just last week I tried kickboxing for the first time and I sucked at it. Not only did I suck, I didn’t really enjoy it all that much. Oh sure, there is something cathartic about punching something that can’t punch you back, but I could tell that kickboxing just wasn’t going to be my thing. Still, I was proud of myself for venturing out of my comfort zone and trying something new and I learned a few things about myself, 1. I’m a lover, not a fighter 2. even though punching bags don’t punch back, you’ll still feel sore and like you were in a street fight the next morning and 3. even though I, myself, wasn’t crazy about the punching, there was something sexy about watching my husband punch the bag (yes, he went with me–he used to box professionally though so this didn’t count as a new thing for him). Overall, it was a challenging one-time experience, and for me, that’s good enough.
So, even though not every new thing that you try will end up resonating with you on a soul level or even be something that you’ll ever want to do again, there is still value in the trying. Here are seven benefits that I personally have experienced every time I’ve flexed my bravery muscle, stepped out of my comfort zone and tried something new…I’m sure that you’ll experience them too if you do the same…
7 Benefits of Trying Something New & Different
- Developing new likes…and dislikes. When you try something new, you’ll either like it (paddle boarding) or you won’t (sushi–yuck!) Until you try these things, there’s no way of knowing what you like, what makes your spirit come alive or what natural talents you possess. Yes, sometimes you’ll have to muster some courage to try your new thing (click here for Five Ways to Cultivate Courage–Even When You Think You Can’t) and you might not be any good the first time you try something. Still, by trying something new, you’ll discover whether or not you like it (even if you’re no good at it.) For example–when I first tried knitting, I was flat-out TERRIBLE at it. I kept dropping stitches, twisting stitches, knotting stitches…you get the picture. Still, there was something about the feel of the yarn in my fingers and the sound of the needles clicking together that I just loved. So…I kept trying…and trying…and trying until finally…I got the hang of it. Now, knitting is one of my favorite pastimes and I can do it without thinking about it which means that it is the perfect activity to do while watching TV or carrying on a conversation. It makes me sad to think that I didn’t try knitting until I was in my 30’s, but glad that I did eventually try (and fall in love with) it
- Boosting confidence. Last year I ran my very first ever half-marathon (you can read about all of the valuable lessons that the experience taught me here.) Before training for my half-marathon, I was NOT a runner. Oh sure, I ran from base to base when I played softball over the summer or occasionally through an airport while trying to catch a close connecting flight, but I never ran for distance and certainly not for fun. Still, I decided to try something new and that thing was running. What started out as a sloppy, half-hearted attempt to boost my cardio stamina and burn a few calories, ended with me crossing the finish line of a 13.1 mile race through a high elevation (in other words–no oxygen) mountain canyon. What that achievement gave me (besides a sore IT band that had to be iced for a month) was an incredible sense of accomplishment and a tremendous boost to my confidence levels. Something about having that finishers medal slipped around my neck made me feel like a total bad ass, and it is a feeling that I carry with me to this day and am able to summon whenever I feel overwhelmed by a task. Need to finish a report by noon? No problem, after all, I’ve run a half-marathon. Nervous about submitting an article to a magazine? Oh come on now–hitting “send” is a thousand times easier than running a half marathon. Scared to confront the office bully? No way! I mean seriously…can they run 13.1 miles? Having this accomplishment in my hip pocket to draw strength from has given me the confidence to face so many other challenges. None of that would have happened though if I hadn’t decided to give running a try.
- Making FabYOUlous new friends. Back in 2001, I was a young mom with two little boys who had just moved to a new city in a different state away from all of my family and friends. I didn’t know a soul and kept getting lost because I wasn’t yet familiar with the layout of my new town. I was feeling lonely and discouraged and in desperate need of some adult to adult conversation (because let’s face it–one can only talk to a three year old boy about choo choo trains so many times before losing her ever loving mind) so I decided to try something new and venture out to a local “Mom’s Club” gathering. I was a nervous wreck, but I pasted on a smile, swallowed my fears, sucked it up and walked into the meeting. What a difference that one, new thing has made in my life. Those little boys who were three and five back then are now 21 and (almost) 19 and yet one of the gals from that very first meeting is still, to this day, one of my best friends (I’m looking at you Kathy!). I’ve also made new friends while attending knitting classes, showing up at business networking functions and going to blogging conferences. If fact, I would say that venturing out and trying new things is one of the best ways to make new friends because by exploring things that you are interested in, you will, by default, become connected to others who share that interest; therefore providing common ground upon which to build a friendship.
- Developing new talents. I first wanted to develop a website back in 2007 but I didn’t actually start tinkering around with the idea until 2015. My first site was pretty terrible and so was my second, third…you get the picture. Still, (much like my knitting experience mentioned above), I genuinely enjoyed creating online content and working with design elements to create a functional and attractive web presence. The more I learned about coding, hosting and SEO (Search Engine Optimization for those of you who aren’t quite as geeked out about this stuff as I am), the more skilled I became. I still learn new tricks every single day, but because I was willing to try something new, I am now able to add website creation to my list of talents. Unless you are willing to step out of your cozy, yet stifling comfort zone, you will never get the opportunity to discover all of the amazing things for which you have a natural talent. Yes, that talent may require a little refining or practice, but the first step to cultivating talent is to try something that you’ve never tried before.
- Cultivating Creativity. Something magical happens when you try something new–your brain makes new connections and begins to weave old experiences with newer ones. This amazing ability is what allows creativity to develop and grow. Exposing your brain to new experiences, sensations, people and ideas is what gets “creative juices” flowing and allows you to think “outside the box” more easily.
- Challenging previously held beliefs. Before I entered the world of nonprofit management, I lived in my safe little bubble where it was easy to assume that bad things didn’t happen to good people. Once I began my nonprofit career however; I quickly learned just how wrong that belief was. The thing is–my degree is in English and I was supposed to be an English teacher. It was only when I decided to try something new and accept a position with a nonprofit organization that I began to fully realize the difficulties that so many people are faced with on a daily basis and the positive impact that a service organization is able to make on those individuals. This is a valuable lesson that I was destined to learn sooner or later, but it happened when I veered from my “comfort zone” path and tried something different.
- Inspiring others. Whether you realize it or not, people are watching you. It might be your children, your friends, co-workers etc. This is important because, based upon the theory of social contagion (which documents the spread of affect or behavior from one crowd participant to another), your actions are impacting those around you. When people see you being brave and stepping out of your comfort zone to try something new, they are inspired (though often subconsciously) to do the same. I experienced this personally when I observed my good friend Jonelle‘s meditation practice. After observing the mindful way that she goes about her day and learning about her approach to meditation, I too decided to begin my own mindfulness practice. She inspired me to try something new and hopefully I am doing the same for others whenever I stretch myself to try something outside of my normal routine.
With the start of a new year, comes the perfect time to make a commitment to yourself to bust down the walls around your comfort zone and experience something new. Let this be the year that you do something different. Let this be the year that you live your most FabYOUlous life yet!