10 Experiences to expand your horizons
We all have moments where we feel stuck in a rut or unchallenged by our life circumstances. Well, congratulations, this is a fabulous opportunity to break out of your comfort zone and do something you have never done before. This is a chance to deepen or broaden yourself in some way.
Reality check - Some of us will use this as an inflection point … to “change the game” and try something new, some of us will not. What’s the difference? I’m not entirely sure, my thinking below …
Some people seem to innately pursue “newness.” Their lives are replete with moments where they have taken on hobbies or experiences that force them into new, challenging, exciting, or uncertain circumstances. There are also a large group of people who seem to actively avoid these new experiences. These folks seem perfectly happy or at least happy enough to keep on keeping on. Is it the security of the known, fear of “failing” at something new, a lack of drive to do more and go further …I have no idea. It’s also hard for me to judge as I’ve been in the former category most of my life. I love new challenging stuff. Having said that, I have certainly had moments of the latter, especially when my “eyes were a little bigger than my stomach” during particularly challenging moments in my growth choices. More than once, I have said out loud or in my head, “Who on Earth signed up for this!!??”
Paths: There are many ways to experience new things and look to grow:
There are lower impact lower engagement activities like reading. The learning is nearly exclusively intellectual and does very little to stretch or broaden you as a person (you onboard some information and “learn stuff”). This experience requires very little of you and further, I would argue it has very little in it that grows you as it is too personally distanced. At its best, it is the catalyst that inspires you to a higher level of engagement.
A step up from that is something slightly more immersive like attending a lecture or watching a documentary, delivered by someone who has actually had the experience and they can give that learning more color and feeling. This can create a stronger possibility of inspiring you to the "real work” of these experiences.
Then there is the difference maker that actually grows you as a person – you go do it. First person, for real. This is where - You and your anxiety/fear/excitement meet Opportunity.
My most important mentor, executive coach Terry Pearce, helped me see the power in the intentional pursuit of personal growth and challenge. Everyone who knew Terry would periodically find themselves challenged by his question, “What have you done, with your own time and money, to purposefully grow yourself in the last 6 months?” Such a powerful question and, early on in my journey, a humbling one. Leading Out Loud - Terry Pearce
Early on, just knowing this question was coming from a man I deeply admired drove me to try new things far more than I ever would have. I wanted to be able to share a response I was proud of. It wasn’t that easy of course; I found myself having to work through my internal pushback of – “how busy I was with work and therefore how little time I had and how the financial impacts of “doing significant things I thought would benefit me” were out of reach, maybe in a few years”. His responses were roughly - “these are all legitimate concerns and, what CAN you do right now? What MIGHT you do that would profoundly impact how you see yourself and therefore profoundly impact your life?” That encouraged me to think differently about what experiences might have important impacts for me.
Here are 10 experiences that can help you grow yourself and gain a newfound appreciation for life. I put them in the order of highest impact in my experience, your mileage may vary.
- Volunteer Your Time: Volunteering can be an amazingly gratifying experience that allows you to make an enormously positive difference in people's lives. Depending on what you do, it can also enable you to expand your skills and your knowledge base. Giving of yourself, to benefit others is arguably the highest calling a human being can pursue. I’m not a parent, but I can easily imagine this is exactly how a parent feels about their children (when they don’t want to ship them off to boarding school or the merchant marines). Whether you work with animals, help out at a soup kitchen, go overseas to dig wells, and build schools, volunteering allows you to connect and serve others. In my experience, there is nothing like it! Find Local Volunteer Opportunities
- Travel Abroad: Traveling abroad can be one of the most rewarding experiences for self-growth. By visiting different countries and experiencing new cultures, you can gain insight into different world views and perspectives. This can give you more appreciation for other perspectives and even allow you to evolve your beliefs. For me, there's nothing like exploring new places, meeting different people, experiencing different cultural traditions and trying the local cuisine. I believe that when you travel the opportunity to grow, or not, is defined by the intention you have and how you travel. Do you insulate yourself or do you experience the culture? Do you just buy trinkets or do you look to learn about these people? Do you meet real people or just check off Instagram moments? There is an enormous difference and many “travelers” are missing huge opportunities to grow, in fact they aren’t growing they are just traveling. I’m not condemning people who spend a week sitting on a beach somewhere sipping cocktails. That’s a nice escape, but be clear, in no way is it doing anything to help you grow or learn or do good in the world, it’s just consumption.
- Start a Side Hustle: If you're looking for a fun way to expand your horizons, start a side hustle where you can deepen your knowledge, expand your horizons and explore something you always wanted to try. Start a flower shop, bake custom cakes, make clothing, create art, install bathrooms – yep, I’ve met people who have done all of these. This choice allows you to nurture another side of you that can satisfy other core values and allow you to hone new skill sets. It can also provide some valuable lessons in entrepreneurship. financial management and work/life juggling (like you needed more of that right?). As an entrepreneur myself, I can tell you the satisfaction of growing something from nothing is incredibly powerful.
- Take Up a New Hobby: Taking up something completely new is an excellent way to broaden yourself without leaving home. The possibilities are endless, from learning how to code or paint to playing an instrument or practicing yoga. Having something fun and creative in your life helps inspire you, can connect you with new people, and helps keep stress levels down.
- Learn A Second Language: Learning a second language is one of the best ways to open new opportunities for new professionals and make new friends. There are clubs and meet ups in every city for people looking to learn a language and get immersed in new cultures. Further, learning a language is shown to improve cognitive abilities such as problem-solving and critical thinking. Who can’t use a little of that? Duo Lingo
- Start a Meditation Practice: Meditation has been around for over 3,000 years and tens of millions of people practice it. Who knows, there might be something to it. In the West, mindfulness meditation has become increasingly popular over the last nearly half a century. This is partially driven by the increasing levels of day-to-day stresses people feel in our culture and also because of documented medical and psychological benefits like: the reduction of stress hormones and responses, improved sleep, and at the same time an increase in productivity.
There are dozens and dozens of ways to meditate and it doesn’t matter what method you choose. Whether it’s sitting quietly on your sofa and observing your breathing, attending a group class, repeating a mantra, contemplating the joy that something you love can bring into your life or listening to a podcast with a 5-minute guided meditation … you will notice how much calmer and relaxed you will feel. After even a few weeks of regular practice you will find your ability to feel gratitude for the gifts in your life, process upsetting news, or strategize a new way to solve a problem becoming simpler and clearer, and more rewarding. Meditation Practices
- Take On a New Role: Taking on additional responsibilities at work is a great way to hone existing skills and explore new ones! New opportunities could involve:
- Volunteering for special projects outside of your area of expertise. This is important because many people limit their thinking to only things they already know. The point of this is learning something you don’t know!
- Volunteering to LEAD a special project
- Tell your management that you are interested in taking on higher levels of responsibility. You will be amazed how few people volunteer to showcase their willingness and ability; rather, they wait around to be offered the opportunity assuming everyone will notice their brilliance. And yes, you are volunteering to do it IN ADDITION to your regular work role. This is how leaders emerge folks.
- Attend Professional Conferences and Seminars: Attending professional conferences and seminars is a way to expand yourself both professionally & personally. These events allow you to network with like-minded people and make invaluable connections along the way. Networking at these events will help build relationships with industry peers and provide valuable insights into up-and-coming trends that could prove helpful later down the line.
- Listen To Podcasts and Lectures: Listening to podcasts & lectures is another way to expand yourself and there is no shortage of topics available. Increase your longevity, improve your business or sports performance, create a better relationship, learn to cope with loss, get spiritual guidance and learn to fix your Swiss coffee maker (yes, I did this one), it’s all there for us in a way it never was before. Listening has some advantages over reading for some people, as it can help you absorb and remember information more quickly.
- Read Widely & Deeply: Reading is often the first gateway to helping you increase your knowledge and broaden your perspective. It can also help improve your creativity and imagination. From biographies and novels, to history, art, travel logs, philosophy, and scientific writings, there is virtually no limit to what you can explore from the comfort of your favorite chair. In my case, much of my reading has been the kickstart for deeper investigation, learning, and travel.
I challenge you to challenge yourself. I know it’s harder than doing nothing or the same old thing … but come on, you have very little to lose and a ton to gain!