We’ve all tried new things in our lives. Whether it’s eating at a new restaurant, starting a new job, or buying a new pair of shoes. It’s part of life and it’s part of growing up. But when was the last time you tried something new?

We’ve all been there – on the brink of trying something new and not sure what to do.  Do we dive in? Do we worry about looking silly?  Do we turn away in fear?  It’s not just big things like hiking a mountain or flying or bungee jumping that can cause this panic.

It can be as seemingly simple as taking a new class or going to a new restaurant that causes this kind of panic. Maybe it started out as something you were shy about, like entering a new restaurant or class by yourself. And then you’ve avoided it so much, it started to become something you feared doing. Not just shy about it, but actively avoiding it because you became fearful of doing it.

But we need to take that step and jump in. Here’s why trying new things is important.

Gives You Confidence

Building up confidence is important.  You try something new and you’re successful and that gives you the confidence to try something else.  Starting small and getting positive results encourages you to keep going and try more new things.

Starting small can be as simple as trying a new recipe at home, which then leads to trying a new dish at your favorite restaurant, which leads to eating out at a new restaurant, and maybe that leads you to a vacation where you can try authentic food in the country it was first created.  Each step builds upon the next step.  

It’s possible that you might have failed at the first step of trying a new recipe at home because it tasted horrible. But you’re much more likely to keep trying that small step of cooking something new than you would if you started with trying a new restaurant first and having a horrible experience.

In my late 30’s my friend dragged me out hiking with her.  I wanted to go, but I was a smoker at the time and horrible at hiking because of it.  I might have stopped right then if I was trying it by myself, but someone was with me. And I wanted to do it even though it was hard. And even though my friends were doing harder trails and then doubling back to meet me, I kept at it.  

Eventually, I stopped smoking and started hiking faster, went backpacking, and also did several hut hikes in the White Mountains in New Hampshire.  I started small, made small victories, which built my confidence (and my fitness) and kept moving forward to the bigger challenges.  If I started by trying to hike up Mt. Washington first, I would have failed miserably and never gone back.

Your Brain Works Better

Learning new things changes your brain and it changes different parts of your brain…in good ways.  For instance, did you know that in the brains of someone who is bilingual, a different part of the brain, the left inferior parietal cortex, is larger than in those who only speak one language?  This makes sense because the left inferior parietal cortex is the part of the brain involved with language and mathematical computations.  

The brain’s ability to change at any age is referred to as brain plasticity.  Pretty cool.  As long as you’re learning, the different parts of the brain associated with what you’re studying continue to grow. And even as you age, learning new things changes your brain, even though it slows down a little which is why brain training programs are so popular now.

Trying New Things Increases Your Happiness

You might not have realized it when you were in school, but we actually enjoy learning new things. It builds our confidence to learn something new and when we enjoy it, we can find ourselves in a state of flow. That moment when we are “in the zone” and time passes without our noticing. We are absorbed by what we are learning.

And if we enjoy what we are learning it helps us get past the hard parts. If you want to learn guitar and start taking lessons, then your desire to learn will help take you past the struggles of learning something new, past the feelings of “what am I doing?”  Then you’ll feel satisfaction in learning the new skill and you’ll also feel good when you think back on your ability to learn the guitar.

For me, I was anxious about writing. For years, I struggled with sharing myself through writing. But these last few years of blogging have been helpful in gaining my confidence, I was taking those baby steps and slowly building up an audience, getting comfortable. And then I decided to write a book.

I actually wrote it in a couple of months and then sent it off to an editor. Each time she sent it back, I was afraid to read her feedback. I’d let it sit for a couple of months until I was “ready” to face it. The funny thing was, reading her feedback didn’t hurt. It didn’t make me get upset or cry. It all made sense and was what was needed to make my book better.

But now I’ve gone and done it. I published my own book for the first time. And let me tell you, at that moment in time, it didn’t matter that no one else knew, yet. It felt so good to finally accomplish it that I wanted to bask in that feeling prior to sharing it.

So what’s stopping you from getting out there and trying something new? Have you tried something new today?