Not long ago, I sent myself a card that caught my eye at Trader Joe’s. “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” it challenged.
While there are many ways to measure success, one of the best is adding up the number of Firsts in your life. When we’re children, everything is a first. As time goes on, many people simply cease doing anything that is not a repeat of a past performance.
It’s the path to early senility.
How can you experience a life filled with Firsts? How can you find yourself exclaiming, “I’ve never done that before” ? It may be easier than you think.
Every day living offers an abundance of opportunities to do something you’ve never done before. Drive a new route. Eat a new food. Get to know a stranger. Pick up a book from a section of the library you don’t usually visit. Try a new marketing approach. Write a poem. Wear a color that’s been absent from your wardrobe. Take a public speaking class. Plan a business project with a new partner.
While ritual and tradition may be comforting, making a conscious decision to pile up Firsts can be addictive. Doing so can also lead to larger adventures since it’s a guaranteed confidence builder.
In order to bring more Firsts into your life, your imagination needs to be fully engaged. While we all have random first-time experiences, they can be far between if we don’t instigate them ourselves. Learning to think in new ways, in turn, is vital to growth.
“It is one of the paradoxes of success,” Charles Handy discovered, “that the things and the ways which got you where you are, are seldom the things to keep you there.”
You’ve got to keep creating Firsts if you want to see progress.
The enemy of living this way is the undeservedly popular comfort zone. While that zone is different for each of us, it’s the place where there are no surprises, nothing unexpected. It doesn’t build brain cells, it doesn’t stir the imagination. It’s the place where we keep the remote control and emotional control.
Parents often encourage their adult children to live in a comfort zone, thinking it’s a place that prevents worry. There are very few Firsts for those determined to preserve comfort—which is truly worrisome. The comfort zone is a holding tank; it doesn’t lead anywhere.
No matter where you are nor how old you are nor how long it’s been since you’ve had a First, come up with one right now and do it. Then find another and do it again. Expect that you’ll experience discomfort and welcome it as an ally in creating a richer life, not a sign that you should turn back.
“Those who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed,” said Richard Bird. That’s an invitation to a life filled with Firsts.