“Experiencing something new is strongly correlated to happiness”.
As I was exploring on a major trip to Asia last month, I came across an Instagram post from Arthur C. Brooks (@arthurcbrooks), about neophilia the desire to try something new. For those of you who are familiar with my past blogs, you will know that Brooks is a hero of mine.
Brooks assertion is that experiencing something new is strongly correlated to happiness. The search for the new generates positive emotions of interest and joy.
In the same week I read another post about trying something new by James Quigley. Quigley posits how this search for the new ensures that you have more fun, are less boring and less complacent.
It seems that the world is trying to tell me something, so I hope I can emphasize the importance of trying something new.
Although these thoughts apply at all ages, they seem more relevant as we get older. We often fall back on what makes us comfortable regardless if it brings us joy, such as the same activities or socializing with the same friends.
What Holds Us Back
My take on what holds us back from trying new things is fear and inertia.
So, let’s start with fear. It seems to me that the two major fears that we have are:
Fear of Failure – for all of us who are A type personalities and expect to ace everything we do, this can be a real de-motivator. When you start something later in life, there is this expectation that you just do not have the mental capacities to be an expert. News flash – yes it may be harder to learn how to become a concert pianist but learning an instrument later in life can bring a whole new world of sound and movement into your life. The real question is do you have the determination to be bad at something before you get good?
Fear of Discomfort – within discomfort there are physical and emotional challenges. The physical fears are there to keep us safe. However, with the right precautions and consideration of your current physical condition, there are inspiring stories about people taking on physical endeavours later in life. Look at the website ROAR for inspirational stories about men and women who do just that. The trick is to build your physical condition. Walk before your run, run before you enter a marathon.
The issue of emotional discomfort is much trickier. Are you ready to be an actual novice at something? For someone who is used to being an accomplished expert, how do you shift into a beginner’s mindset? This means being open to making mistakes, getting frustrated and trying again, and again and again.
Another emotional discomfort is that fear of criticism. The ‘who does she think she is ‘ syndrome. Pursue sources in your life that encourage your self confidence. Make new friends, revise your reading list, look for mentors – young and old. I highly recommend the Art of the Impossible (included in our Lifeshiift Resources list). When I needed to learn about social media, my mentors became much younger women. They were really excited about helping me and I am amazed at what we continue to accomplish.
Inertia – by inertia I am referring to the attachment of the way things currently are; all is good right now, why should I change? There are many reasons to try something new, ask Arthur Brooks. Taking the first steps towards starting something new can be very daunting. With fear nailing your feet to the ground, you need to prioritize your joy, and find ways to motivate youself. Here are some tools to help you start something new – or as Quigley holds: more joyful, more exciting, and more confident.
3 Tools to Strengthen Neophilia
Make a list
My mentor, Hina Khan has an exercise that she calls the 50 Wants List. She recommends writing down as many things as you can think of that you want. This can be difficult if you have the “I will just be satisfied with what I have” mindset. The key here is to approach it with – if anything is possible, what do I want. Write everything down – the crazy, the funny, the impossible. Look for what resonates with you. Look for ways to get to your goal. One of the items on my 50 wants list was to go to a yoga retreat in Asia. During COVID lockdowns, I started by making regular online yoga sessions part of my weekly calendar. My next step was to go to a yoga retreat in Mexico. Finally this year, I actually accomplished this goal.
If you think it will never happen, then it is very likely that it never will. If you think it is impossible, then it will be!
Look for groups/teachers/mentors
There are an infinite number of learning groups online and in person if you know of any that other Lifeshiifters would enjoy please let us know. These can range from the local community centre or board of education courses to progressive schools and universities that have resources for later life learning. Even famous universities like Stanford or Oxford have programs aimed at students who want to learn for the sake of learning.
Enlist a friend
Want to really get motivated – enlist an “accountability buddy”. Empowered women empower women. Think about someone you know who will be supportive of your goals and get them involved. The best way of doing this is to jump into the activity together but if your friend is not inclined to do it with you, use them as your sounding board. Just because they do not want to participate does not mean that their support will not help you to stay the course. Who knows, they may change their mind once they see how rewarding it is for you.
I first heard about the summer courses at Oxford from my friend Barbara, a lifelong learner who had been to one previously. It took us two years before we made it to Oxford but that is exactly what we did. Check out this video to see our adventures.
Quit if you do not like it
While no one talks about this, trying something new does not mean that you must complete something that you truly dislike. Do not quit if something is difficult – that is the point of becoming a novice. However, if you will not ever enjoy the activity, then give yourself the grace to say – I tried it but it is not right for me. This is not failure – failure is never trying something new!
The Lifeshiift Philosophy
The idea of doing new things is very much part of the mantra of this community – finding purpose, community and adventure. We believe, like Brooks, that trying new things will actually increase your happiness and life satisfaction. Do you have some great stories about things that you or others that you know have tried? Let us know. We would love to feature women who continue to learn and grow.