When was the last time you stepped past the edge of your comfort zone? When was the last time you tried something new?
If the answer is, “A while ago,” it’s time to step up your game!
A world without risks is a world without joy
Once, when I was kid, I had a thought that fundamentally changed the way I approach new things. We were having one of those classic parent-child exchanges. “Just try a little bite, you might like it…”
I like ice cream, I thought, staring doubtfully at the stuff in front of me. This is not ice cream.
But suddenly, I imagined it was ice cream. Here was someone urging me to try it, and I was refusing. I would go my entire life not ever tasting my favorite food because it was unfamiliar and I was stubborn.
I caved and tried the new food, which of course did not taste anything like ice cream. But I had realized something new. Those who stay in their comfort zones may be missing out on some of the wonderful things life has to offer. I have since been much more willing, and even a little afraid not to, try new things. I have found that overall it pays off.
Is today a copy of yesterday?
It is all too easy to get stuck in a rut in life. We drive the same car down the same roads, eat the same foods, and talk to the same people. I’ve found I even gravitate toward the same seats in a church building or a restaurant. Familiar is comfortable and safe.
But what does that do to us as living beings? Have you driven somewhere and not remembered much of the drive, because it was so familiar? Doing familiar tasks allows our brain to go on autopilot, freeing us up to think about other things. But it also robs us of experiencing what is right before us.
When we have similar experiences, like driving to work everyday, our mind starts to lose the distinction between them as separate occurrences. Why would your brain need to remember each of the 47 times you went to your favorite restaurant and ordered the exact same dish? The memories start fusing together and fading.
New experiences keep us present. They keep us engaged. They form distinct memories. They allow us to come off of cruise control and really be in the moment. Personally, I don’t want to live the same day over and over again until I die, barely telling one day apart from the next – even if it is my favorite restaurant or favorite food.
So I push myself. I try to remember to try new things occasionally. Even small things. To sit in a new seat. To take a different route to where I am going. To talk to a new person. To try a new type of food. To do something different on a date night. The point is to form memories and enjoy life, and not let it just fly by in a blur.
Expanding our horizons
When I think about familiar things versus trying something new, I imagine myself as actor on a dark stage in a spot light. Everything in the light is what I have already experienced. It is already clear to me, whether it is good or bad. I am trying to go up to that edge and stick my toe over the line. Each time I go into the darkness, it becomes visible too. My spotlight expands to show that area too.
I’m probably going to give away how many computer games I’ve played here, but I also imagine that I’m peeling back the shroud in a game. Wherever you haven’t been yet is covered in a shroud. As long as it’s dark, you don’t know if it is something to be avoided, or something that you really need or want.
When we are familiar with things, or when we have already experienced them, we can choose to repeat the experiences we enjoyed and avoid the ones we didn’t. But the fact is that some of the things you might enjoy the most may still be outside of your range of previous experiences, beyond what you already know. Staying within our circle of light helps us stick to what we know we like, but it can never offer us anything new.
Note: I want to be clear, I don’t use this reasoning to justify risky or detrimental behavior. I want to make my life more amazing, not limited by addictive behavior, substances, or poor choices. I’m trying to expand my horizons, not decrease them. When in doubt on what to try, it’s always safe to look at the experiences of others.
Here is my lunch from the other day. A curry lemongrass tofu Vietnamese baguette sandwich, and one small leap of faith on the side…a red bean sweet bao. Something I’ve never tried before and might love or hate. But it stops this visit from being a carbon copy of the last time I came. And the sandwich? I absolutely love it! But I never would have know that if I hadn’t taken the chance to try it the first time.
I don’t want my life to be one big blur of sameness, wandering through it half awake (very easy to do in my shoes…one giant blur of diaper changes, meals, and car rides to activities). I want to meet life head on, with eyes wide open. And so, I try to remember to try something new every so often. It just might end up being a new favorite.
What have you tried lately? Anything that you found out you liked?