Trying New Things

Trying New Things

This came up in my meditation this morning, “Try something different.” I have an overwhelming feeling, and the only way that I can describe it is to say that I’ve been in a rut simply. Nothing seems to be clicking into place, and life has felt as if it is sputtering. Things that I thought I would have accomplished by now stare at me as reminders of current failures. It is all a nasty process, and my mind has been perpetuating the ego by telling me that it is all true. So today I begin again, attempting to shed the doubt and the dusty cloak of depression and self-loathing. The hole I put myself in is incredibly uncomfortable, and today I make an effort to take that first step out of trying something new.

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I resist and often fear trying new things. I prefer to eat what I already know; I like going to places I feel comfortable in. I quite literally thrive on routine, and most days I find myself perfectly happy to do the same things day after day, it feels safe after all. 

One benefit of enjoying routine is that it supports discipline, meaning that it keeps me honest. I wake up at 5, meditate, get ready for work, leave, work, come home, work, go to bed. Potentially misguided but discipline nonetheless. I've known for a long time that the real reason I resist trying new things and prefer routine is fear and the fear of the unknown. I'm essentially mostly afraid of being in situations where I perceive I might be in some way unsafe.

Studies suggest we fear an unknown outcome more than we do a known bad one. What if I don't like this new dish? What if that foreign country is dangerous? I have an extraordinarily active and fertile imagination that it sometimes can debilitating to do something on a whim and often is a disadvantage in living.

Opening our minds to a new thing or a new way of thinking is often frightening because by definition it's unfamiliar. Unfamiliarity rings the alarm bell "danger—potentially unsafe." But if you think about it, most of the things we fear don't come to pass. What's more, we're often unable to anticipate the good things that do occur as a result of our trying something new.

Trying Something New

Courage

Trying something new often requires courage. And needing to summon courage is itself a benefit. Once it's released it will, like its second cousin once removed, anger, indiscriminately engulf everything in its path. How beautiful to open a flood of courage and be carried on its waves to destinations of an unexpected benefit.

Possibilities

Trying something new things opens up the opportunity for you to enjoy something new. Entire careers, entire life paths, are carved out by people dipping their baby toes into small ponds and suddenly discovering a love for something they had no idea would capture their imaginations.

Bored

Trying something new keeps you from becoming bored. Even I, the most routine-loving person I know, become bored if I'm not continually challenged in some way. And it's not the new challenges I'm eager to take on that represent my greatest opportunities for growth—it's the ones I'm not.

Grow

Trying something new forces you to grow. We don't ever grow from taking action we've always made. Growth seems to require we take new actions first, whether it's adopting a new attitude or a new way of thinking, or taking new action. Thrusting yourself into new situations and leaving yourself there alone, often forces beneficial change. A spirit of constant self-challenge keeps you humble and open to new ideas that very well may be better than the ones you currently hold dear.

Which is why it's usually this last point that wins me over. For me, trying new things isn't about just enjoying a new activity or food, for example. I am content enjoying all the things I already enjoy. But straying into foreign lands, both metaphorically and literally, has always forced me to challenge my beliefs. And as painful as that is, nothing, I believe, contributes to our happiness more than shattering the delusions to which we cling, unable as we often are to distinguish between beliefs that are true and beliefs that are false (especially beliefs about ourselves). And for better or worse, we simply seem unable, most of the time, to identify a belief as delusional unless some experience shows us.

In the end, I find the spirit to try new things synonymous with the spirit of self-improvement. And while I can't honestly say I'm intrinsically interested in the former, the latter is a large part of the reason I'm here.

Words by Alex Lickerman M.D.
Source: Psychology Today

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