The New and Improved You

Stepping outside your comfort zone.

We all get into ruts and develop routines. Kids, family obligations, errands and appointments all add up to little personal time. We over think things, constantly worry, say “yes” too often and take care of everyone except ourselves. Added to this “I come last” phenomenon is the high speed of the world around us. So much information is coming in that our brains rarely get time to rest. Even the technology that often makes our lives easier may create stress. But it’s important to find ways to learn more about yourself while having fun.

Recently, I had a mini meltdown when I wanted to listen to some music at home. I had forgotten that my husband, encouraged by my 11 year old, had changed our sound system. I had to control my music via one of our iPads that accesses something called Sonos, which then connects to Pandora and other sources of music. All I wanted to do was pop in an old Madonna or Stevie Nicks CD! I quickly gave up and retreated to a hot shower.

Afterward, I thought about the blog I started a while back, www.the52weeks.com. When it was conceived, my blog partner and I were feeling “stuck” and vowed to try something new or different every week for a year and write about it. It was hard, but we plowed ahead. We took dance lessons, went rock climbing, test drove sports cars, learned how to box, explored Kabbalah and even ate blueberries every day for a week all in an effort to break out of our comfort zones.

We soon realized we were inspiring other women to try new things, too. Many wrote to us and told us they shared our feelings of restlessness. When did so many of us women stop exploring the new and start feeling so complacent? My blog partner and I started doing some research and spoke to experts. They all pretty much agreed: It’s critical to try different things to feel well and grow. It’s also a great way to discover, or rediscover, yourself. If you feel bored or stuck, try just one new thing and you will feel better. Yet many find this hard to do. My blog partner and I certainly did when we embarked on our 52-week journey.

Psychologist Dr. Alex Lickerman says that’s not unusual. In his work, he has found that people often resist trying unfamiliar things because they are afraid. Most people tend to stay with what they know— their established routine (their old CDs?). Lickerman gives voice to many of our fears: What if I don’t like this new dish? What if the foreign country I am going to visit is dangerous? He believes we fear an unknown outcome more than we do a known bad one.

“In order to grow and have a full sense of self women should make it a priority to take on new challenges, even if they take small steps,” says Debbie Magids, Ph.D, founder of the groundbreaking program The TotalSelf Prescription: Get The Life You Want at www.drdebbie.com. “It’s all about discovering new things and you can’t do that without looking inward too.”

Dr. Lickerman also has great insight into why new things are so powerful, including when you try something new you need courage, and summoning that courage is powerful. New things also reveal unexpected possibilities, including new careers or even life paths. The bottom line is when you try something outside your realm of comfort, you battle boredom and force yourself to evolve.

Ironically, this week, I am 100 percent sure that I don’t want to try anything new. There are just some weeks where routine is needed. That’s OK. I try not to beat myself up about it. I am slowly embracing the upgraded music system in my house, but I still miss my old CD player. I plan on learning how to ride a Vespa in the coming months. I just hope I don’t need lessons to play my music while I ride.