In Search of New
My family bought me a book called the Alchemist written by Paulo Coelho not too long ago. I guess I’m one of the few people who hadn’t heard of him. Come to find out he is known around the globe as someone whose writing is engaging and has touched the lives of over half a billion people. More than nine million fans follow his every word via social media. Leaders of countries around the world have sought him out and asked for his guidance.
Yet with his fame, abundance, security, homes in many countries, a happy marriage for more than 30 years, respect, and a career that allows him the ability to positively influence the lives of others on a daily basis, Paulo found himself facing a bump in the road at the age of 65. He ran into a crisis with his faith and with the ability to get up in the morning fully charged and engaged.
After a while, he came to realize that he had fallen into a rut and hadn’t enjoyed any new experiences for quite some time. While travelling the globe he was not meeting new people or experiencing any new challenges, adventures, or presented with new opportunities – everything was just too structured and planned out. He found that a person can have all of the right ingredients for an incredible life but without adding novelty and uncertainty to the mix, the outcome is very bland and can lead to a host of consequences such as boredom, depression, and emotional dissatisfaction.
We all see people that seem to have it all but who experience major life struggles and we think well, if I had all of that, I don’t think I would be struggling. But the truth is sometimes too much of anything can give us too much of a good thing and not enough uncertainty.
It has been known for years that the human mind often poses contradictions such as the need for certainty and the opposing need for uncertainty. We want to be sure of our relationships, financial security, our health, etc. But we also desire uncertainty. Our minds love a challenge; it needs to wonder what if, what could be, what will be, or what is. Simply put, we have a need for ‘new’ in our lives. We need new challenges and new experiences and that is in fact what Paulo discovered.
Neuroscientists have concluded that the brain is hardwired to seek novelty and challenge after studying the results of advanced imaging machines such as the MRI. Their research shows that your mind releases dopamine and jumps to attention whenever it is hit with something new, uncertain, or challenging. The uncertainty of new experiences snap us into a ‘let’s figure this out’ mode and is what triggers learning. The studies of famed psychologist Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi also revealed basically the same thing when he found that we become absorbed in things that we have an interest in but have a new-enough element to challenge us.
Few of us have time to add more to our already busy days but we do need to consistently seek new experiences if not in quantity, then in quality. We need to make it as much of a priority to schedule in new experiences as we do scheduling other parts of our lives.
We recently celebrated Olivia’s high school graduation and two of her first time ‘must dos’ on her bucket list was playing baseball with tomatoes and playing twisted twister. So, my wife made that a reality when she bought a bucket of tomatoes and a few containers of paint and orchestrated both activities. What a blast everyone had doing something unique and new while making a big mess. Sometimes it doesn’t take much to mix it up with something new and in doing so our lives become fully engaged, enthusiastic, and energized.
There are so many opportunities for new experiences that will help us reap the benefits of bringing newness back to the forefront of our lives. Here are a few ideas:
- Explore new restaurants
- Take in a show or sporting event that you haven’t experienced before
- Donate time to a new charity, church, or school system
- Reignite old, or create new, friendships
- Learn or develop skills
- Visit the many beautiful areas within driving distance of your home or explore faraway places
- Take up a new hobby
- Start a new workout regimen or health related plan
- Teach a course on something that you excel at or are knowledgeable of
They say that variety is the spice of life. There certainly is a variety of opportunities to mix it up when looking for new things to do. Make a habit of regularly scheduling them in and you will feel re-energized and re-engaged and as Walt Disney shared, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”