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Getting Comfortable with New Experiences

This post is an honest look at getting comfortable with new experiences.  When we become confident and comfortable in our abilities, we can look to trying new things, meeting new people, and welcoming new experiences with open arms.

The Background

When Ray and I moved to Colorado back in 2014, I had only skied five times in my life.  Needless to say, I was way out of practice when it came to hitting the slopes.

My first few days getting familiar with skiing came with a lot of difficulty.  I would struggle to keep my skis out of the “pizza” shape, I couldn’t figure out the appropriate method for turning, I was incredibly sore the next day, and I, quite frankly, was incredibly scared every time I saw something remotely resembling “steep” by my standards.

Yes, skiing was a slightly new experience, but this fear was a new feeling for me.

My History

I’ve always been the type to try almost anything.  I’m far from being naturally athletic and my talent lies far from musical, but I’m still the one that give pretty much anything a shot – including everything from figure skating, to dance team, to the all women’s choir in college.

In my past, I’ve been on the dance team, though far from being the best.  When I tried out for the choir, I made the choir, though not the advanced one.  When I was a figure skater, I felt comfortable competing against myself to continue making it to the next level, rather than always needing to get a gold medal.

While I more depended on my ability to work hard and easily relate to people versus athletic prowess, I was still rarely, if ever, nervous to give something a shot.

But skiing was different.


Getting Comfortable with New Experiences

Having this experiences taught me a lot about myself and about where I am at this phase in my life.  It was dealing with a new mental state, one that I’ve had to come to terms with over our few years here in Denver in several situations – skiing, starting a new business, getting married.  I needed to learn to face that fear of the unfamiliar head on so that I could come out courageously on the other side.

Fear of new experiences can come in many forms in your life, too – starting a new business, moving to a new home, having a child, starting or ending a relationship.  Or, for someone like me, it might be something as seemingly trivial as trying out an activity that people learn everyday… skiing.

“Zot” in Vail ended up being my first black diamond back in that first ski season (2014), and now I’m fairly comfortable in most terrain.  But the truth is that leading up to this black diamond, as well as through our few years here, I’ve figured out several truths about becoming comfortable with new experiences.

The How To’s

  1. Determine if it’s realistically safe.  Does what you are thinking about hurt you or other people – mentally, physically, or otherwise?  Have you ever tried something remotely similar?  Do you have the potential certifications necessary?  If yes, then stop here and re-set your goal.  If no, then move along to step two.
  2. Be honest with yourself.  We all have different thresholds as to how deep we are willing to go into new experiences before our systems go into fight or flight mode, and that’s okay!  Before you dive into a new experience, you have to be really honest with yourself about where that point is for you.  Are you more risk averse or do you enjoy taking some risks?  Recognize and be okay with those thresholds before you decide to move forward.
  3. If it’s new, find a way to test the waters a bit.  “Start on a smaller slope,” if you will.  How can you dabble within your potential new experience to see if it’s right for you?  Can you job shadow or informally interview someone in your dream job?  Can you go on 1 or 2 dates to see if you’re ready to start dating people again?  Just a small sample of whatever you’re considering might be all you need to know if it’s right for you.
  4. Surround yourself with a positive support system.  The truth is, even with my seemingly simple example of skiing, I couldn’t have done it alone.  Halfway down “Zot,” I was struck with a paralyzing fear, and it took Ray calming me down and walking me through the steps to make me feel more comfortable with what I had to do.  Who do you need in your corner as your support system?  Your parents?  Siblings?  Friends?  Partner?  Consider who you can call when you need someone to talk to and who will be truly honest with you.  Approaching new experiences can be difficult, but it’s a lot more fun with a positive community in your corner.
  5. Remember that you don’t need to take big jumps immediately.  For skiing, the truth is that a black diamond is just a little bit bigger blue run.  Or a double black diamond is a little bit bigger black diamond run.  Work your way up to your goal.  If you’re trying to start a business, start working on it two days a week before jumping in with both feet.  Or if you’re starting a new workout program, try for 30 minutes of exercise three days a week.  We don’t need to overwhelm ourselves immediately to become comfortable.  We can, instead, take bite-sized steps to get where we want to go.

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