I've recently realized that we develop and make progress in our life when we experience new things and get out of our comfort zone. What are the different ways we can experience new things?
November 15, 2012 12:14 PM   Subscribe

I've recently realized that we develop and make progress in our life when we experience new things and get out of our comfort zone. What are the different ways we can experience new things?

Getting out of our comfort zone is, in my opinion, the best way to develop and change yourself.

Travel is the biggest one I can recommend. The way it opens your mind to new experiences, different kinds of people and how they live, and other cultures makes it one of the best ways to develop.

What other ways can we experience new things and get out of our comfort zone?
posted by markbao to Society & Culture (19 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Whatever you political/religious/philosophical beliefs, take some time to study the "other" side with an open mind. It may take some effort, but try to remind yourself to glean something useful so matter how much you disagree with the overall premise.
posted by The Deej at 12:17 PM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Volunteer, especially with organizations that help folks with severe disadvantages in life (the homeless, special needs, the very poor, etc.).
posted by jbickers at 12:20 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Food! Eat things that you think would gross you out with an open mind, especially if the broad strokes of your culture define it as "gross." If you're from somewhere that aspics and offal are considered weird and gross, try some aspic and offal! If you're from somewhere where McDonald's cheeseburgers are considered weird and gross, have a McDonald's cheeseburger!

The act of making yourself not just tolerate but want to put in your mouth, chew, and swallow something you are viscerally opposed to on a purely theoretical basis will blow your mind if it tastes good. I shit you not but having my first slice of anchovy pizza -- how many movies and TV shows have you seen where anchovy pizza is the ne plus ultra of gross? -- and loving the hell out of it is one of my most treasured experiences.
posted by griphus at 12:25 PM on November 15, 2012

Say "Yes" to anything you would normally say "No" to.
posted by tommasz at 12:29 PM on November 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

(Also, people develop food allergies and intolerances as they get older. If you don't try that food thing now, you might wake up tomorrow with a condition that will ever keep you from trying it at all.)
posted by griphus at 12:31 PM on November 15, 2012

If you have access to a mass transit system, just go somewhere. Ride the subway line all the way to the end and back, or take the ferry just because it's there.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 12:35 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Read through Metafilter posts (and obviously, check out the posted links), even if you don't think you have an interest in the topic at first glance.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 12:35 PM on November 15, 2012

The answers in this previously -- "Over and Over" -- may be of help.
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:43 PM on November 15, 2012

Speak in front of people. I've never cared about getting out of my comfort zone, but i joined Toastmasters because I knew I had to venture out once or twice in my lifetime. Now I'm addicted!
posted by BostonTerrier at 12:52 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Express yourself! Find an art form that you've always admired and learn how to do it, whether it be painting, sculpting, fiber arts, singing, or acting.
posted by xingcat at 1:13 PM on November 15, 2012

Change your reading habits. "I only read novels; mostly sci-fi and capital 'L' Literature," said me, years ago, before discovering some really, truly excellent non-fiction.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 1:15 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Take classes - I'm working on a graduate certificate now in a discipline that is related to my field, but way outside of both my area of expertise and my comfort zone. I'd count it as an uncomfortable growth experience.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:30 PM on November 15, 2012

Use your local community college system to learn a new skill (and meet new people interested in that skill). For example, for a few hundred bucks by me, you can learn to weld, become an EMT-Basic, learn jewelrymaking, learn to ride a motorcycle, etc., all independent of the classic/academic school stuff.

Explore your state. I don't know about where you live, but where I live in a good 6 hour drive you can be in some totally different towns, cultures, and ways of life. If you live in a small town, visit the biggest city. If you live in a big city, visit the smallest town.

Honestly? Social media. I like Twitter because I have little "Twitter families" of people I like in a bunch of different cities and countries that have different lifestyles and perspectives than I do.

Even in your "routine" stuff, shake it up some. I belong to a chain of gyms and my membership lets me go to any location in the area. So I'm going to a totally different gym this week where I don't know anyone, all the equipment is different, etc. Yeah, it's a little thing, but it's shaken up my routine some, I'm using different equipment, meeting different people, swimming in a longer pool, running on a track rather than the treadmill, etc.

Get in a car and just drive. How many times do you take a trip where the goal is to get from point A to point B and pass all kinds of interesting things along the way? Do the opposite of that and stop wherever looks interesting. Eat at local diners and restaurants rather than the gas station/fast food places you usually stop at. Take the back roads and state highways rather than the interstate.

One thing I have found...how to put this? Sitting around doing nothing leads to more sitting around doing nothing. Doing interesting things provides roads to other, related interesting things. For example, the wife and I went to a show at this particular theater and got a program. In flipping through it, we found 3 more cool shows we want to go to in 2013. We started going to variety-type shows at a local nightclub and that hooked us into a whole scene of those performers doing things in other places that give us more things to do.

Likewise, I read an article that said the real pernicious effect of electronic entertainment like video games, movies, TV, etc., isn't that they're evil, exactly, it's that you never get really bored, and boredom is where a lot of creativity comes from. Think about all the times you've watched shows or played games and you weren't exactly enjoying them, you just couldn't think of anything else to do. (I think of a lot of MMO players I know who loathe the games they spend 8 hours a night in, but...that's what they do and they can't think of anything else to do). Whereas if you got bored enough, maybe you'd decide to paint your house or go try that new cafe down the street or call your mother or write that novel or whatever. It really resonated for me, personally.

And confront your biases as often as possible. For example, I thought books like 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and How To Win Friends And Influence People were hogwash for management types and not for someone so enlightened and sophisticated as me, but I recently read them and holy shit there's so much useful advice oh god why didn't I do this sooner.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:59 PM on November 15, 2012 [13 favorites]

A challenging one for me, that I aspire to put into practice more, is talking to people that I normally would assume I have nothing in common with, to find a common ground and perhaps hear of something going on that I would like to explore but wouldn't have been exposed to otherwise.

You could do meetups or things of that sort, like go to various society or group meetings. This is how I decided to try my hand at archery and wood turning.

Also, you can challenge yourself physically. Do a marathon, plan a long hike or bike ride. . . there are all kinds of variations on the traditional marathon like the color run or tough mudder.

You could get a travel guide to your area and explore places you may not already know. As a recent transplant myself, I often find locals don't even know what is immediately around them. Seek out the little buddhist temple or the odd historical site in your area.

I see lots of fun in your future! Let us know what works for you.
posted by abirdinthehand at 2:01 PM on November 15, 2012

One of the things that has proven most instrumental in my own personal growth has been living abroad - I realize you mentioned travel already in your question, but I think this is different enough to merit a separate mention. At least for me, while travel has indeed been formative, living elsewhere has been exponentially more so. Travel has always given me a sense of walking in a zoo, or in an aquarium, where you're looking into the fishbowl and seeing all of these fascinating exotic cultures and practices before moving on. But when you live in a foreign place, you don't have that luxury of spectator feel and personal distance: you're forced to immerse yourself in the culture in a way that renders you vulnerable to it, rather than just the other way around. You're also forced to confront a culture's mundane rather than simply the touristy, the novel, and the sparkling - filling out tax forms, scouring the city for super-absorbent pads with wings, paying rent, buying food at the grocery store and cooking it, making small talk with your neighbors, etc. For me, this gives a much more well-rounded picture of what a city and culture is like. Traveling abroad is like going out on a date - you see a culture at its best and most stylized, in its pearls and make-up and high-heels, on a series of structured evenings. Living abroad is like living with someone. The sometimes suffocating proximity, the way that it constantly reminds you of your vulnerability and openness to something's or someone's otherness, the manner in which it topples your authorial interpretation of the world and your place in it, how it radically contexualizes or rewrites your experience in ways that don't have you and your normative experiences at the center and in ways that may at first be unnervingly alien to you - all of these are ways that living abroad has changed and developed aspects of my personality and character in ways that travel hasn't, and which - although sometimes painful at the time - I would recommend to anyone.
posted by UniversityNomad at 2:09 PM on November 15, 2012 [7 favorites]

- Stay up really late for no reason. Face the next day extremely tired, and realize that you can actually sort of get by. That sleep isn't a tyrant demanding that you get your X hours per night lest you be completely non-functional. (I am paraphrasing the Ze Frank-coined term "busting your cycle")
- Read from a subject you're completely unfamiliar with. Try to read real books instead of breezy non-fiction summaries. Instead of having shallow surface knowledge of a lot of things, strive to have a dozen or so deep spikes of knowledge in disparate areas. Keep making those spikes. They'll help you in unexpected ways and keep you aware of all that you do not know.
- Go on fasts. Try going 48 hours with no electronic entertainment at all. Or try giving up some food that you tend to eat a lot of.
- Talk to people. People are really fascinating, strange creatures. Try to talk to people who come from a significantly different background. Pay close attention to what motivates them and try to get some insights into their psychology and what their "inner world" looks like.
- Take classes at local community colleges or studios in subjects you have no knowledge of.
posted by deathpanels at 2:19 PM on November 15, 2012

Watch foreign films, from all over the world. Especially films being made right now. Film Movement puts out some great stuff that tends to reflect the experiences of everyday people.
posted by Rykey at 8:25 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Read more fiction from other countries, cultures. Really good fiction can help you to understand another culture by encouraging you to identify with characters whose lives are very different from your own.
posted by mareli at 6:22 AM on November 16, 2012

Learn a new instrument. I grew up playing piano, but I just started taking violin lessons, and wow, I'm humbled and awed and super-excited, all at the same time. It's forcing my brain to operate in different ways, and it's so much fun. Plus, dealing with being really quite bad at something and not quitting has been a challenge.
posted by punchtothehead at 2:18 PM on November 16, 2012

« Older Military Divorce Filter   |   Google Nexus 7 - what am I missing? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.