Learning new stuff is great, isn't it? First comes fear, then excitement, before the ultimate glow of satisfaction as a new life experience is logged. So if novelty is so great, why are most of us desperately attached to boring old habits and tired routines?
A few months ago I threw my cozy life away, swiftly quitting my precious career and beloved home before embarking upon a quest to try something completely new every single week. For the next 12 months, I decided, my sole purpose in life would be to embrace full-frontal novelty. 4 months into my new lifestyle, which combines life hacking, career break, early midlife crisis and late gap year, I've got one alarmingly simple pearl of wisdom to share: we should all be trying much, much more new stuff.
Since my life experiment (which I'm calling My Year In Flux) began 20 weeks ago, I've embarked upon a new 'Weekly Challenge' every single week, in fact I am now blogging with the Huffington Post as a direct result of my 16th Weekly Challenge, to share my experiences with a wider audience beyond my own blog. By the end of February 2014 I'll have tried a new challenge every week for a year, accruing at least 52 new skills in just 52 weeks.
Some of my challenges have been fun and glamorous - learning how to beat the house in Las Vegas, trying my hand at surfing in Costa Rica and working with leatherback turtles in the Caribbean rank as highlights - whilst most have been simple, necessary, self-corrective life hacks, like learning how to sleep better, trying a raw food diet and drastically improving my reading speed. However exciting or basic the new challenges are though, once the dust settles they each have life-altering consequences. In fact, I'd go far as to say that in the last 20 weeks of flux I've learned more about who I am than I did in the preceding 10 years. Simply through the process of forcing novelty on my lifestyle, I am happier, healthier and more self-aware. If my claims sound far-fetched, I dare you to try one tiny, completely new thing today, and see how it makes you feel. Trust me, most of us have forgotten how great novelty actually is!
It was around a year ago that I realised, definitively, that my life had become comfortable and rather dull. I was a quietly successful creative entrepreneur with my own digital video agency, a nice London flat and a tight social set. Life was good, but it wasn't remotely challenging. 12 months on from that realisation, I have no job, no definitive prospect of earning money and a savings account that is shrinking fast. Domestic bliss is non-existent for me too: I currently have no fixed address, all my stuff is in a grim storage unit in South London, and I'm scrawling these words as my wife and I experience a hair-raising 15 hour bus ride across Colombia. Life could barely be more different to my previous existence. Looking forward 7 days, I don't know where I'll be or what new challenge I'll be embarking upon but I do know one thing about next week for sure: I'll be spending the majority of the time outside my comfort zone, igniting once again the chain reaction of fear, excitement and ultimate satisfaction that only comes from trying something new.
If you have a potential Weekly Challenge for me, or want to share your own experiences of stepping outside the comfort zone, do let me know in the Comments below.