…if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world.Neil Gaiman
New experiences are good for you. Those parts of your brain that are in charge of detecting threats and keeping you safe might lead you to think (or perhaps feel) otherwise, but in general, humans thrive upon novel experiences. They stretch us and help us learn. Psychologist and Professor Scott Kaufman points out a delightful list of benefits that come from new experiences in his Scientific American article, What Happens When People are Intentionally More Open to New Experiences? Among other things, Kaufman points out that new experiences are associated with creativity, tolerance for ambiguity, an openness to ambiguity and different perspectives, the experiences of awe and beauty, and personal growth.
Our minds and bodies sometimes seem to be engaging in a tug-of-war between the desire for safety, stability, and predictability on the one hand, and the enriching, inspiring, and mind-expanding benefits of novelty and new experiences. Both play a valuable role in our lives, but if you are looking for growth and the types of benefits mentioned by Kaufman, then maybe it is time to create an intentional plan to seek out new experiences.
There are many ways to go about this. For this article, I offer you two distinct but related life experiments from which to choose. They both relate to seeking out new experiences for 7 days. One is an challenge to pick a new experience and devote time it on each of 7 days. The other is a browsing approach where you commit to trying something new each day for 7 consecutive days. Pick the one that resonates with you and give a try. As always, we would love to hear from you during and/or after your experiment.
The 7-Day New Experience Challenge – Option #1
- Make a list of at least 10-20 things that you’ve always wanted to do, learn, see, or experience, but you have not. This might be learning a new language, learning a new skill, visiting a particular place, or something else. Try not to censor yourself. Make this a sort of “new experience” wishlist.
- Now for the hard part. Look at the list and select one that you are willing and ready to try. You are only committing to it for 7 days, and you don’t need to make any decisions beyond that.
- Next, if this new experience requires certain knowledge, skills, planning, or resources, this is your time to do it. Figure out what you need, and get it in place.
- Now pull out your calendar. Looking at the next 30 days, block off at least 7 days where you are willing and able to commit a portion of your day to this new experience. How much time each day will depend upon what you choose. It might be an hour, or it might be a full day. Of course, this depends upon your other commitments as well.
- It isn’t necessary that this be consecutive days, but if 7 consecutive days works for what you selected, go for it.
- Get started.
- Take time throughout the 7 different days to pause, reflect, and record your thoughts and observations. Spend a little extra time at the end of the 7 days doing the same. What did you learn?
- Once you finish the 7th day, now it is time to decide what you want to do next. Perhaps you want to continue with this, or maybe it was just a good experience, and you are ready for something else.
The 7-Day New Experience Challenge – Option #2
The goal of education is not to increase the amount of knowledge but to create the possibilities for a child to invent and discover, to create men who are capable of doing new things.Jean Piaget
- Make a list of at least 10-20 things that are readily accessible or available to you, but you’ve never tried before. It could be trying a certain food, visiting a place nearby, meeting a particular person, listening to a new type of music, or whatever else comes to mind. What is important for this particular challenge is that you pick things that are available enough that you can experience at least one of them for each of 7 consecutive days. In general, it is useful to select experiences that you can accomplish in an evening or a day on the weekend.
- From your list, narrow it down to the 7 that are most interesting.
- Get your calendar and block off time on 7 consecutive days for this experiment, assigning one of your 7 new experiences to each of those days.
- If there is any planning or preparation needed, try to do as much of that before your start the 7-day experiment. That will help remove barriers to following through, plus the planning and preparation is often as rewarding as some experiences.
- After each experience, set aside 10-15 minutes to record your thoughts, questions, observations, and experiences. What did you feel, think, and learn?
- At the end of the 7 days, set aside time to further reflect on the experiment. What do you observe and notice about yourself? What did it feel like before, during, and after an experience? Did this inspire any additional new experiences for the future? Out of the 7 experiences, was there anything that you might want to continue?
- New experiences can evoke both fear and joy. Embrace both and use this is a chance to learn about yourself. If the fear is holding you back, consider doing a little research on how to overcome fear. This article about How to Conquer Your Fear of Trying New Things might be helpful.
- You can do either of these alone, with a partner, or even a group of people. Maybe you want to experiment with a mix of all three.
- Part of this experiment is to get you thinking about the role of intentionally planning and making room for new experiences in your life, and what such experiences do for you. As you go through this, consider how you might create space for such things in the future.