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Low Stakes Change for High Stakes Potential

Sometimes we find ourselves in a rut, feeling sluggish, bored and with too much time on our hands. Sometimes the opposite occurs and we feel like things are too busy, too rushed and too out of control. Yet what both these situations have in common is that change is needed. Even if we understand this intellectually, change can feel scary and intimidating. So how can we make change feel more comfortable and even fun? By starting small!

Here are a few simple ideas to get you going – the point is to step outside your usual patterns:

  • Spend a few minutes outside, even if the weather isn’t perfect, to refresh yourself and stimulate new thinking

  • If you always do the cooking, let a family member or a restaurant take over this duty; if you never cook, give it a try

  • Test out a new style that appeals to you but might be described as “too much” – too dressy, too attention-getting, too colorful, too young, etc. – release the judgment temporarily and give some aspect of it a try

  • Don’t say “yes” just because this is what you always do; say “no” when you can and want to say “no”

  • If you typically order a particular coffee, sandwich or entree, when you go out, pick something a little different

  • Give yourself permission to temporarily “unplug” as the messages will be there when you return

  • When you hear something that irritates you, remain quiet or change the subject instead of arguing; or, if you usually avoid sensitive topics, calmly share your point of view without, of course, expecting instant understanding or agreement

  • Ask a friend to think of something simple that she/he has always thought you should you try – a new walking trail, book, cuisine, etc. – and then help you get what you need to experience it

  • If you never listen to music, put the radio on, if you love TV, try a magazine, if you typically surround yourself with noise, try a little silence

  • Wear your hair differently; if it’s short, change where you part it, if it’s long, put it up or wear it down; see how it feels to do the opposite of what you typically do

  • Make someone’s day, pay a stranger a compliment instead of keeping your admiring thoughts to yourself

  • Request an opinion from someone who seems very different from you and see if you learn something unexpected

  • Take a break from needing to make your own or others’ actions “good” or “bad,” instead try to experience events without labeling them

  • Ask “why not?” instead of “why?”

Self-Discovery Tool Number 60

We tend to think that we need to do big things to bring about growth and yet growth comes from small steps as well as large ones. Get into the habit of making small changes, they are the foundation upon which big, long-lasting shifts can be built – give it a “small” try today!


Embracing the Unknown

What do bungee jumping, traveling to a foreign land, and asking for a date have in common? Depending on who you are, these particular examples may be too extreme, too mundane, or not directly relevant, but they all point to the potential for learning that comes with taking a risk. Whether or not you get the results you were seeking when you take a chance and step out of your ordinary routine, your perspective will have been expanded by the attempt.

So, how can we do a better job of viewing risk-taking as positive and energizing instead of scary or intimidating? And how do we shift our focus away from the outcome we expect or think we need and instead focus on and value the risk-taking journey for its own sake? Is there an attitude that we can adopt in order to appreciate more deeply the inherent gifts of embracing the unknown?

Here are some strategies to get you started:

  • Practice saying, “I don’t know” when you aren’t versed in something rather than forcing yourself to come up with a response. See what insights emerge when you let go of needing to have all the answers.
  • Adopt a growth mindset. See mistakes as opportunities for learning and development. Recognize how many times you have been able to learn in the last month and congratulate yourself on your progress.
  • Ask “what if….” If you usually do things a certain way or in a specific order, purposely mix up your routine. See how diverging from the tried and true for an hour or a day can reinvigorate your life.
  • Plunge in with childlike enthusiasm. If you think something might bring you joy, give yourself permission to do it just “because.” See how it feels to get started with only minimal expectations, preparation, or goals.
  • Decide to keep an open mind. Allow yourself to change your mind, be wrong or simply pursue of a new point of view. Commit to acknowledging the uncertainty and ambiguity of life and discover what gifts this mental fluidity affords.
  • Find humor in surprises. View the twists and turns of life as opportunities to take life – and yourself – less seriously. Look for the comedy in the unexpected and consider what about your challenges might also be funny.

As humans we prefer things to be all figured out and neatly ordered into instantly recognizable categories. This is a natural tendency. Yet when we limit ourselves to what we know and makes us feel comfortable, we can miss out on exciting and interesting opportunities that would allow us to expand our thinking and increase our wisdom.

Self-Discovery Tool 52
Embrace the unknown, look at things differently, and try something new. Refresh yourself through experimentation and ease up on the drive to be perfect. Be open. Be curious. See what amazing things life has in store when you take a risk. Although missteps are possible and successes are a terrific bonus, the true value of any risk is in the experience: life’s greatest teacher!