When was the last time you did something for the first time?
When I read this question for the first time, recognition drew a smile on my face.
It seems such a light-hearted question, but there is a nugget of hidden wisdom.
When I think of the times that I felt most happy, those were usually times in which I was doing and experiencing a lot of things for the first time.
Around 2010, I had been living a nice and quiet life for a few years, just going about the same routines. I wasn’t depressed, but I wasn’t utterly happy either. Looking back now, I’d say I wasn’t thriving, not living up to my full potential. I wasn’t feeling fully alive.
Some days a passing tourist would tell me something I had never before heard or thought about, and all of a sudden I would feel deeply inspired. My imagination would launch into a stream of new plans, dreams, and projects I could start. I’d feel light and alive.
One of those days sparked the dream of my own yoga and massage studio.
For the first time in my life, I started working on building my own business, literally from the ground up: designing the building; getting the permits and papers; buying the wood, nails, and thatch; thatching the roof; designing ads, flyers, signs; planning my first yoga classes; making my first money as an entrepreneur.
There was a first experience every single day, many a week, countless every month.
At times I was going through a steep learning curve, aching muscles, disappointing waits, set-backs, and failures. It wasn’t always easy. But even those difficulties were all related to ever more first experiences, and it never even occurred to me to give up.
It was an intense time of being 100 percent motivated and full of energy to take on whatever came my way. I was feeling utterly alive.
When was the last time you did something for the first time? This question points us to a crucial life hack, one that can help us live our life to the fullest, bring out the best in us, make us feel more accomplished, fulfilled, and happy.
When we were babies, toddlers, and children, every day we were learning new things that helped us to survive in this world. As children, we had an insatiable curiosity to understand things, figure them out by observing, copying, and trying. With a never-ending persistence, we practiced and eventually mastered motor skills, language, and games. There was no stopping us.
Children are doing a lot of things for the first time every single day. This is what gives them their incredible sense of aliveness. They live life to the fullest, every minute of their day, until they crash into the oblivion of sleep, to restore their energy and be ready to explore the world again tomorrow.
Then we grow up, and all those (once difficult) skills are engrained in our brain cells. As adults, we can do most things on auto-pilot. Gone is our daily dose of excitement caused by new experiences!
Auto-pilot might be useful for all our daily, repetitive activities. The down-side of auto-pilot is, that everything we do on a regular basis gets programmed into our auto-pilot brain-app. When we stop doing things for the first time, our life is cruising completely on auto-pilot.
Growth is what keeps us alive, and it is life, constantly throwing us new opportunities, that makes us grow.
But then there’s our ego, that gets in the way.
Since ego tends to be lazy and anxious, that’s where things go wrong, where growth stops—we are scared of the new and unknown. The main reason for this is a bunch of false beliefs, all fear-based, that can cause anxiety just thinking about the possible outcome of a new endeavour:
It might go wrong.
It might work out to the contrary.
We might fail.
We might hurt ourselves or someone else.
We might not be perfect at it the first time we try.
We might lose something or everything.
We might be rejected.
We might not like it.
We might be mocked, ridiculed, chastised, or punished.
Fear keeps us in our comfort zone, home base for the auto-pilot.
Living on auto-pilot in our comfort zone, our life energy is slowly being sapped. When we stay in our comfort zone, we are not doing things for the first time. We are not exploring, investigating, learning anything new. We are not growing.
Holding on to false beliefs, we are not doing anything that makes us alive and thrive.
The gap between the not-doing and the doing is bridged by just that one step that we have to take to get out of our comfort zone, breaking through our false fears.
“It’s not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.” ~ Seneca
It’s that one step that can give us the momentum to just try and do something for the first time and then find out that:
It works out well.
It isn’t so scary or difficult after all.
We’re learning a new skill.
We’re actually good at it.
We’re getting praised for it and loved.
We’re not losing anything.
We’re gaining confidence and courage through it.
We feel accomplished.
We feel alive!
The more often we step out of our comfort zone and try something new, the easier it gets to motivate ourselves to do it again.
When it comes to picking what we want to do for the first time, to take that step and try out new things, there is no end to our possibilities:
> New places to visit, foods to try, new styles, and genres of music, books, art, media, and clothes, new hobbies, frivolous skills, random knowledge, exercise, creative projects, home-made products.
> Anything we have dismissed in our life because we believed it was silly, too expensive, too far, frivolous, difficult, or scary, or because we were too young or too old for it. Who told you so?
> Stuff we never did because, “my parents/partner would never approve,” or, “what will the neighbours think,” or, “I’d be making a fool of myself,” or “I’ve never done that before.” Who cares?
> Things we dreamt of doing when we were young, but then we had to get serious and make money. Spoiler alert: Money doesn’t make us happy.
> Little things that could make us feel good, but we just don’t bother because we think we’re not worth it. We are!
> Choices we never made; viewpoints, behaviours, and thoughts we never had because they didn’t fit our beliefs about ourselves, “I’m not that kind of person.” Who’s ever decided we’re a fixture?
> Small acts of kindness toward others. Giving is one of the most fulfilling things we can do!
> Anything to honour our creative talents that we’ve put on hold for our career or our family—for life. We don’t want to die with our music still in us, as Wayne Dyer said.
> Meet new people—anywhere. They usually don’t bite!
Try to take that one scary step to do a new thing (big or small) every day and keep track of how you feel afterward. Feeling more inspired to do stuff? Maybe even getting creative? Less fatigued and more energised? More confident, accomplished, fulfilled, and happy?
Feeling more alive? Ready to conquer the world?
The best part is, we can start today!
Author: Leontien Reedijk
Image: Author’s own / @thekarmashack Instagram
Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Copy editor: Travis May
Social editor: Waylon Lewis