An essential component of discovery is the point-blank action of exploring the world outside of introspective discoveries. To discover by doing brings many new elements into our lives (and provides more fodder for thought!). Humans love routine; it is safe and comfortable. Fear often keeps us from exploring the unknown, when strangely enough, we tend to learn the most about ourselves when we face our fears. Trying new things contributes to our sense of purpose and can have a significant positive affect on our mental, emotional, and physical health. Trying a new activity or exposing ourselves to new ideas stimulates the brain and aids in elasticity, even forming new neural pathways. A study by Rich Walker of Winston-Salem State University showed a direct relationship between having a high variety of experiences and happiness. Physically, depending on the activity, new experiences can engage our bodies in ways we have not tried before. There are tons of benefits to exploring what life has to offer.
I have known some folks who felt that they didn’t have a calling and weren’t interested in many hobbies. While the idea of having a predetermined calling is a conventional assumption, I wonder how many different things they tried before they decided they weren’t interested in anything. You are unlikely to know if you like something unless you try it.
It is important to distinguish what makes trying something new meaningful, because it is not always the case. We can easily try plenty of activities and enjoy them but not have them be fulfilling. One way to look at it is what the activity satisfies- is it a short term urge or a long term urge? As in, is that book your reading apart of a larger desire to understand the universe? Is that movie just something fun to do right now? If you’re trying to fill up time with that salsa class, it is not meaningful (but you could still discover something you love there that becomes meaningful). However, if you’re taking that salsa class to challenge yourself, there is meaning. It boils down to whether or not growth is a part of the package, either in the initial intention or inspired by the exposure to difference.
Alright, get ready, I’m about to make a huge list. This is in absolutely no way exhaustive. These are ideas and hints and options for things that can be done to create and uncover meaning. Please keep in mind that intention is essential in determining whether or not the activity contributes to fulfillment. If you’re trying to chase away boredom, consider re-framing why you want to put yourself out there.
Travel exposes you to diverse situations and cultures that try your assumptions about how to live and interpret life. Going on a backpacking trip to a remote location can immerse you in nature and give you a sense of scale, thus putting your notion of self and life in new context and providing new understanding. Traveling presents you with constant opportunities to take risks and see what you are capable of. Trying new languages, foods, routines, transport, conceptions of time, and climates will allow you to think about a variety of ways to experience life. I find my trips teach me that I know less and less, helping me remain open.
For all of recorded history, mankind has used spiritual practice to create meaning and find understanding. Whether we decide to delve deeper into a religion or philosophy we currently hold dear, or expose ourselves to others, this empowers us to be vulnerable and honest with ourselves. Religions across the world have had brilliant minds and hearts dedicated to uniting with a higher purpose and each has something unique to offer. All of us are unique and various ideas and practices will ring the bell of inspiration for some and not for others. Exploring the wisdom of mankind’s spirituality through investigative reading, attending of services, retreats, or communicating with practitioners may guide you towards more meaning.
Outside of organized religions, many have found utility in esoteric practices like astrology, tarot, numerology, i-ching, and palmistry (to name a few). For those who do not trust in the validity of these practices, they still offer interpretations that we can bounce our reactions off of. For example, while I’m supposed to be a Capricorn, I do not identify with the traits. Instead of rejecting the entire study, I like to acknowledge the contrasts I come up with to gain clarity on how I perceive myself.
Meditation and prayer can be a part of the spiritual package. Engaging with these practices once again allows us to be vulnerable and opens up paths of introspection that we often do not give ourselves time to indulge in.
- With the intention of growth and a light-hearted expectation of failure, engaging in new hobbies can open us up to entirely new worlds of passion. You can try anything. Traditional arts, performance arts, learning a new instrument or how to sing, sports and aerobics, crafting, design, programming, debate, gardening, hiking… you name it. Expression.
This is pretty similar to hobbies, but I’m distinguishing it because I mean it academically. Studying a new subject that you haven’t investigated before can help you understand yourself and the world better.
Pick up a book or take a class on anything that peaks your interest; from history to languages, philosophies, neuroscience, robotics, positive psychology and anything in between.
Communities offer us a plethora of golden opportunities for discovery. Where there are people, there is something to be experienced! Examining how we connect with others and how we fit into different groups is illuminating. There are unlimited numbers of gatherings of folks dedicated to one cause or another. Find them and join them! Attend festivals, camps and retreats, clubs, and celebrations. Getting involved in activism and politics can also help you clarify your values and be a part of something larger than yourself.
Seeking out a mentor or coach has been life changing for many. The common impression is that you do not go after this kind of connection unless you are desperate and need to change things in your life drastically- but I would offer that mentors are always helpful, regardless of how much you perceive yourself to be struggling. Options include counselors, life coaches, spiritual mentors, and role models.
Don’t forget self-development workshops!
Changing the way we feel and see also provides the opportunity to gain insight. To be perfectly clear, I’m not suggesting drug use here. There are other kinds of activities that can help you feel and think differently. Activities that feel high-risk that get your adrenaline pumping (such as sky diving) can allow you to consider your mortality quite vividly. Things like vision quests, lucid dreaming, and meditation are other strategies employed to access new states of consciousness.
Assessments are wonderful tools for gaining understanding and knowledge. Personality tests, aptitude tests, career assessments, and matchmaking profiles all have something to supply us.
- Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) (Here) or (Here) (fun) (fyi)
- Enneagram (here)
- Big Five Personality Inventory (here) (what is it) (another what)
- Mindset (Dweck’s work) (test it here)
- GRIT (here) (here) (what is it)
- Narcissim? (here)
- Internal Locus of Control? (here) (here)
The problem I’ve personally had with trying new things is actually doing it. Weird, right? I have decided several times that something is important to me and taken my sweet time in getting the ball rolling.
“To begin, begin.” –William Wordsworth
It sounds entirely too simple when taking that first step can be so difficult. Procrastination can become a useful strategy for avoiding potential failure and discomfort. My questions have revolved around the authenticity of motivation and how to tap into it. However, I stumbled across an article that suggested stronger motivation will naturally develop once you begin doing whatever it is you’re trying to get into. The idea is that taking action will inspire you and hence round out the cycle with further motivation.