I am not what one might call adventurous. In fact, until age 12, the only foods I would eat were chicken fingers and french fries (anything green was simply out of the question). I live by my planner and to-do lists, and I hate when people change plans.
Needless to say, I am not one to move outside of my comfort zone.
So, when I decided to participate in a challenge where I would force myself to try a new experience every day for a month, I wasn’t too sure how it would go. As a recent college grad who has just started making the transition into the “real world,” I have quickly learned how easy it is to fall into a routine. So I decided to suck it up and put aside the excuses: For one month, I would try something new. Every. Single. Day.
My “challenges” included activities like trying a new food, unplugging from social media, helping a stranger and so much more (keep reading!). Being a type-A person, I chose and planned all my challenges ahead of time, my list being a well-rounded mix of facing fears, increasing mindfulness, helping others and, of course, having fun.
So how’d it go?
It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. As much as I’d like to say that each day felt like an exciting adventure, truthfully, it mostly felt exhausting. It’s not as easy fitting in one new thing every single day as one might think. Since I was trying each thing only once — and a habit requires repetition before it takes hold — I didn’t feel my life was changing in any significant way.
But in the process, I learned so much about myself: I now love lobster rolls and meditation but know that tea will never replace my morning cup of coffee. The simple act of doing someone a favor or taking the time to watch the sunset could change my entire day around and was so worth the five minutes out of my day. My favorite challenges were (shockingly) the ones that really challenged me: They terrified me and made me rethink many preconceptions I had about things I never even tried before.
Like on Day 4, when I tried a hot yoga class. Hot yoga has been on my work out to-do list for quite some time, and given the amount of classes throughout the city, there’s not much of an excuse as to why I haven’t given it a shot. Well, besides fear. Would I pass out? I’m not really that good at yoga. Can I handle it? How hot is it really? So I did what any normal person would do and asked a friend to join me so I wouldn’t cancel. And I loved it! The answer to my questions? No, I did not pass out, yes I can handle it, and yes, it’s hot enough to make you sweat but not too much to keep me from going back.
Another favorite ? When I unplugged from social media on Day 6. Like most people, I am glued to my iPhone. It comes with me everywhere, and my constant social media checkups keep me connected to everyone and everything, at all times. To get rid of all temptation, I deleted my apps before I went to sleep the night before, ridding myself of the instinct to check my phone in bed in the morning. Turns out, I really didn’t miss out on much at all, and the amount of time that unplugging freed up for me was almost mind boggling. I talked to a friend while waiting on the lunch line and read the newspaper on my morning commute. I’m not sure I could ever totally unplug, but I am inspired to limit my social media use and spend time doing more valuable things instead.
And I will never forget about Day 7, when I bought a stranger coffee. About five years ago, I realized I had left my wallet at home just as I ordered coffee at Dunkin Donuts. A (wonderful) woman behind me kindly insisted on paying for it and told me to one day do the same to someone else. As a naturally shy person, I felt uncomfortable for years and never did it. This challenge was the perfect opportunity. So on my way to work, I bought myself coffee, then gave the cashier $5 extra to pay for the person’s order behind me. Unfortunately, she didn’t quite understand and thought she forgot a part of my order, making it quite the awkward transaction. When she finally understood, she asked me why and gave me the weirdest look. I just said, “Just to be nice,” and left. P.S. If the receiver of free coffee happens to be reading this right now, it’s your turn to pass it on!
The consensus? Trying one new thing a day for 31 days was certainly a challenge, but if you’re looking to shake up your routine, get out of your comfort zone and learn a little more about yourself, I highly recommend you try it. While I may not try one new thing everyday for the rest of my life, I’ve been inspired to venture out more often. You just never know what you’ll discover.
Want to try the challenge but need some inspiration? Here’s the full list of what I tried. Feel free to borrow, add or make your own!
- Write down 10 things you are grateful for.
- Do something you don’t normally think you’re good at.
- Skip your morning coffee for a day.
- Take a class you’ve always wanted to try, but never have.
- Try the “8 Things You Should Do Before 8 a.m.”
- Unplug from social media for 24 hours (everyone should try this).
- Buy a stranger coffee.
- Try a new food that you normally would not try.
- Stretch in the morning before work.
- Go dairy-free for a day.
- Smile in front of a mirror for two minutes (it’s supposed to boost endorphins!).
- Go outside for a midday walk.
- Eat away from your desk.
- Reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.
- Put your phone away an hour before bed (it will improve your sleep!).
- Do something nice for someone else, for no reason.
- Write down anything that comes to mind for five minutes (detox journaling, anyone?).
- Try meditating on your commute.
- Take a morning class.
- Make a to-do list and accomplish as much on it as you can.
- Try not to say anything negative all day.
- Spend time on something you love to do but never have time for.
- Try a workout you normally don’t like (it was strength training for me, and I was sore for days –-but the good kind!).
- Eat at a restaurant you’ve never been to before.
- Take the time to watch the sunset.
- Explore a place you’ve always wanted to visit.
- Be as eco-friendly as you can for one day.
- Write down one positive thought and stick to it all day.
- Ask someone you don’t normally take classes with to take a class with you.
- Go a different way to work than usual.
- Say yes to something you normally would say no to.