Monday, June 05, 2006

New and Different

What will you do today that’s new or different from your usual routine? What will you try that you’ve never tried before?

Studies suggest that doing new things helps keep us mentally alert. My own observation is that doing new things has other benefits as well.

1) If we’re always doing new things, we’re less likely to get bored.

2) If we’re always doing new things, we’re always having the opportunity to discover new things we love.

3) If we’re always doing new things, we have more opportunities for success.

Does that last one surprise you? Do you cling to what you know because you figure that those are the things you can do? Does it feel safer that way?

My experience is that that sense of safety is an illusion. What if things change and we have to do something new? If that’s a rare experience for us—doing something new—then each new situation will feel scary. On the other hand, if we are always doing new things then we will have had enough experiences of liking the new food or activity or enough success at trying some new activity that change won’t scare us. We’ll know the odds are good that we can cope with this challenge, too.

There is also this: I say all the time that it is the assumptions we never think to challenge that trip us up the most often. Are there things you assume you can’t do? WHAT IF YOU’RE WRONG?

I grew up believing I was tone deaf. That’s what everyone told me and heaven knows my experience trying to play the cello in high school would seem to have proven it! And yet....and yet....about three years ago a little voice inside challenged me to let go of all my beliefs about myself and just experiment. See what I could do that I didn’t know I could do. Among other things I tried, I bought a violin. To my astonishment, I discovered I could hear whether or not the strings were in tune. To my astonishment, within 24 hours of beginning to play, I could play Beethoven’s Ode to Joy in perfect tune. (And yes, I used an electronic tuner to verify that I was.)

We grow up taking in all kinds of messages about ourselves and about the world around us. Only when we try things we didn’t think we could do or experiment with new foods and activities can we realize how mistaken some of those messages were.

So I encourage each of you, today—and every day—to do something new or different. It can be a little thing and you may not like it. But what if you do? What if there is a whole world of experiences out there waiting for you that will enrich your life?

Happy experimenting!