In a constantly changing society, it can be hard to keep up. Trying new things can be complicated, even scary. But why is it so hard to try new things?
Every day, there’s something new to learn. It might be new technology, a new app, new tools, or a new learning process. It can even be moving to a new town, a new school, or a new job. Something new is always happening to us or around us.
There are a few reasons people find trying new things hard. We’re creatures of habit, and we like what we like. We’re wary of something new that might disturb that comfort. We also fear the unknown because we want what’s familiar. Learning new things makes us uncomfortable and throws off our sense of security.
We’re afraid to try new things because of fear of the unknown and fear of failure. We also tend to overthink things by comparing the costs, which we tend to amplify, against the benefits, which we tend to minify.
If you never try new things, you’ll never know what you can do or learn. You might miss out on opportunities and experiences that can improve your life. Let’s look at how we can address our concerns to move forward.
Fear is probably the most significant factor in why it’s so hard to try new things. Stepping out of our comfort zone is scary. It might even hit hard against some deep-down fears like heights, speaking in public, or that big fear of failure.
We’re afraid of failing, getting hurt (in some cases,) or looking like an idiot. We want to be seen as experts but trying something new means we’re a beginner, and we might fail the first time we try.
But, if we never step outside our comfort zone or try something new, we’ll never grow. We’ll never learn. We’ll never meet new people.
Yes, failure can be embarrassing. But failure also teaches us. We can learn from our mistakes and keep trying. If we’re learning something new, we’re not supposed to be experts immediately.
The first time I tried cross-country skiing, I kept falling. And I wasn’t even skiing on a hill. I was trying to learn in a neighborhood park. The next time I tried, I took lessons at a cross-country ski lodge. I fell less.
I spent many years cross-country skiing whenever I got the opportunity, but I never became an expert because I couldn’t do it every week in winter. But I had fun. I would go with friends, and we’d laugh and have fun, and I wasn’t the only one who fell, although I did it the most!
If I had never tried or if I had stopped after my first time, I would have missed out on years of fun.
What if your fear isn’t about failure but touches on one of your big fears? For me, that big fear was/is heights. Sometimes, I backed down and then regretted it, but other times, I pushed through the fear and found myself enjoying something new.
Creatures of Habit
Why do we resist trying new things when we know they might benefit us? Part of that is we’re creatures of habit. We like routines and patterns that make us feel safe. We like what we like, and we’re wary of something new that might disturb that comfort.
Think about the last time you tried a new restaurant, joined a new gym, or even started a new job. You felt a bit uncomfortable at first. In most cases, though, that feeling started to go away as you enjoyed the food or got to know new people.
The key was staying with it long enough to get past that uncomfortable feeling. You’ll likely find that you enjoy your new eatery or job and have created a new routine. Of course, sometimes you find yourself in a hostile environment, and then it’s ok to leave that new place.
Comparing Costs against the Benefits
When trying something new, we often compare the costs against the benefits–usually in the cost’s favor. We weigh the risks and rewards in our heads. If the situation is scary or hits one of our big fears, those risks outweigh the benefits.
I find that asking questions helps me to move beyond this situation because I usually build that fear up in my mind. For instance, I’ve been to Niagara Falls in Canada several times. Down from the falls, there is an Aero Car that goes across the river right over a whirlpool. I never wanted to go on it. My fear of heights was too big.
Over the years, though, I’ve been working on my fear of heights, and the last time I was in Niagara Falls, my husband wanted to go on the Aero Car. He wouldn’t go without me, so I asked one question. How long was the trip? It turned out it was only 15 minutes, and I figured I could be scared for 15 minutes and be ok.
I enjoyed that trip and was fascinated by looking at the river and whirlpool from above. And all it took was one small question to change the balance of the costs against the benefits.
How to Move Forward
Here are some tips to try when you’re finding it hard to try new things.
- Be open-minded. When we’re open to new ideas and opportunities, we’re more likely to take that plunge and try something different.
- Do your research. Read up on the topic, talk to people who’ve tried it, and gather as much information as possible. If you’re anxious about trying something new, it helps to research beforehand so you can know what to expect. Just remember, doing the research doesn’t necessarily make you an expert, but it does mean you’re informed.
- Take baby steps. If that new thing is daunting, take smaller steps to get there. An example is when I learned how to cross-country ski. First, I started on flat ground, took lessons at a center, and then moved on to hills. I didn’t start with the hills first.
- Face your fears. Part of overcoming our fears is facing them head-on. If we avoid the things that scare us, we’ll never conquer our fears. Instead, we must confront them and find the courage to try something new.
- Be positive. A positive attitude is crucial in overcoming our fears and trying new things. We’re more likely to succeed when we approach new experiences with excitement and optimism. So believe in yourself and know you can handle whatever comes your way.
In today’s society, it can be hard to try new things, especially the older we get. Messages constantly bombard us telling us to stick to what we know and be suspicious of change. Whether trying new food, starting a new exercise program, learning to cross-country ski, or confronting a fear of heights, we are often afraid to step outside our comfort zones. But change can be good for us! It can help us grow and learn new things about ourselves.
For inspiration, read these starting over interviews.