On The Importance of Trying New Things

Octopus I picked up during a recent trip.

Octopus I picked up during a recent trip.

Did the picture accompanying this post get your attention? Were you curious? Revolted? Frightened?

How often do you try something new? Every year? Every month? Every week? 

Likely, the answer is "not often".

I don't know about you but I feel like standing still makes my brain rot. Period.

Keeping abilities, experiences, likes/dislikes, views and beliefs constant stunts our growth as individuals. The familiar becomes too comfortable and starts feeling like it is the only way life can be.

Just give a thought to who you admire most, the people you find interesting, intelligent and insightful. I guarantee they do not follow a predictable routine in thought and action, and if they do currently, it's not likely to be for long. 

In my experience, the benefits of continuously increasing my willingness to try new things are numerous.

With every new opportunity, I may:

  • Find I like things I never thought I would.
  • Develop new friendships that can introduce me to even more new and exciting things.
  • Adopt a new hobby or practice that helps me develop additional skills and abilities.
  • Identify other less valuable activities or things that I choose to remove from my life.
  • Increase communication with others by way of wanting to learn and share my discoveries.
  • Seek out the thrill of discovery more often over time because there is very little downside.
  • Turn one or more of these things or experiences into a part-time or full-time occupation, which would never have happened had I not ventured and tried it.

And best of all...my comfort zone is forever expanded because once I have tried something, it's part of my frame of reference, forever. I believe it works in a similar fashion for many of us.

For example, once an individual has tried a sport, he/she opens him/herself up to considering other similar sports, be it as a spectator, participant or other. Because of this multiplier effect, the expansion of an individual's comfort zone over time is exponential, not linear. How cool and exciting is that!?

As you can tell, I am a huge advocate of trying new things and I find it sad when I hear people who will not wander away from the familiar. I have heard more than once that venturing out and trying something new makes someone "uncomfortable". Well, all the more reason to do it! Over time, even the unknown becomes comfortable.

Here are a few personal experiences to bring the point home:

At Home - Foreign Foods Galore

When I was a kid, my mom and dad made me try all sorts of foods and beverages that were not the usual fare for a Canadian family. I had mangoes, sugar cane, kiwi, fresh coconut, various shellfish, prickly pear, dragon fruit, various types of wild game and practically anything else that flies, runs or swims. As a result, I am an adventurous eater to this day. I don't think twice about trying different things when I travel, such as eel and jelly fish in China, monkey brain in Mexico (yes, you read that correctly), raw squid in Japan, carpaccio in Italy, and alligator in the USA. Unfortunately, when I have travelled in groups, my experience is that folks will seek out the familiar and never really try the best of what the local culture has to offer. Food and culture are tightly linked and, to me, the individuals who sought out the KFC, Pizza Hut and McDonald's were in a bubble and were sheltering themselves from a truly memorable multi-sensory cultural experience.

At Work - Varied Life Experiences Can Make You A Better Performer

The most interesting and dynamic individuals I have ever interacted with at any job I have held were always those who had tried and done a lot, both personally and professionally. They were not interesting because they shared their stories, though I did pry when I figured they likely had some interesting stories to tell. They were interesting and dynamic because their interest in trying new things also made them open to trying things at work and more positive about the unknowns involved in getting a new project off the ground. Yes, those are the individuals I would seek out to help with projects that involved many unknowns. It did not scare them and that helped us move forward more quickly. One such individual, I found out later, not only worked as a manager in a technology company, but he also worked in the entertainment industry as a side gig/hobby. As a result of his interest in technology and entertainment, he developed an interesting application associated with a popular international sport. Talk about different interests coming together and enabling someone to create something unique!

How To Be More Adventurous

Unfortunately, stores and various service providers reward us for being repeat customers, be it for clothing, groceries, restaurants, hotels, cruise lines, magazines, store credit cards. Loyalty programs are the antithesis of feeding our curiosity for the new and different. In order to avoid getting into a rut, here are a few guidelines to consider adopting to start adding more new experiences to your life:

  • When you choose to travel, always travel to new places, preferably avoiding a previously-visited region if you can help it. And, when you arrive at your destination, ask local residents what they do for fun or what they think would be worth seeing that is "off the beaten path".
  • Try at least one new restaurant or food when you hear a good review about it. If you choose to eat out, ask the waiter what she or he would order if they were to make a selection and then stick to your guns and order it!
  • When something is "free to try", and not via an infomercial you saw on TV at 3:00am, go ahead and try it. There is nothing to lose! This could be a food sample at the grocery store, a sample at a bakery or restaurant, a beauty product, a "free for a limited time" app or service - set a reminder to unsubscribe so that you don't get dinged if you don't intent to keep it!
  • Try things that are the opposite of what you would normally do. If you usually turn left to go to work, turn right and take a slightly different way to work. If you usually peel your orange, cut it in wedges instead. You can't know what you like best unless you wander a little bit.
  • When purchasing a personal or professional service, allow the service provider to do what they think would work best for you (hair cut, clothing, even suggestions for a financial plan). You might be surprised by the result. I am rarely disappointed when I leave it to a professional (preferably one who came recommended).
  • Volunteer somewhere that will have you doing something different, like packing hampers, cooking a meal, dog walking, construction, or cleaning up a park. You might discover you like an activity you never would have tried otherwise. 
  • Check out your local community or cultural centre, continuing education institutions or place(s) of worship for activities that you might want to try or learn more about.

Not only will trying new things increasingly often become more fun over time, you will amass experiences that are forever yours and you will only be better for it. It will also make you feel more empowered when taking on something new, whether someone asks you to join in or you are the one making the suggestion.

So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and diversify and expand your "experience" portfolio. The returns will be well worth the investment and will make you a richer and more interesting person as a result (both to you and others). I'm excited for you!

What do you do to expand your comfort zone? Any weird and wonderful stories to share? I would love to hear about it.