(#24) MONKEY SAYS: “Try Something New”
“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.”—Brian Tracy
“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”—Walt Disney
When my now adult daughters Nicole and Catherine were children, whenever they would say, “Dad, I’m bored!” I would often say, “Good! That means something creative is about to happen!” I wasn’t being sarcastic but rather quite serious, saying that so they could reframe boredom as a sort of darkness before the light. Within a few minutes, nine times out of ten they were engaged in a game with each other or doing some independent activity. I commended them on their creativity once they took the initiative to generate ideas themselves and act on them.
I also encouraged them to stretch themselves and try new things. My oldest daughter Nicole played on a baseball team when she was nine, one where the rest of her teammates were boys. I was always very proud of her for doing that. Catherine wanted to do a mandala painting class and so I signed us up for one. It was a great opportunity not only to do something together but also a chance to apply her artistic talents in a new and creative way.
Although I enjoyed writing in journals and occasionally publishing articles in local periodicals, in the mid-80s I had not yet written any books. A good friend of mine, Alan, after reviewing some of my writings, urged me to write a book. I was excited, befuddled, scared, and eager all in one as it was a new frontier. Yet in spite of any reservations or negative self-talk, I felt compelled to go for it. I had a strong sense that writing was in my bones, my DNA. Writing the book and getting it published was quite an adventure and I was very fortunate to have Alan’s coaching and support throughout the creation of what became the first of many publications.
In the award winning Children’s Spirit Animal Cards, upon which these columns are based, Monkey is the one who encourages us to test the waters and “Try Something New.” They are quite ingenious and resourceful and will often explore new things readily. In the guidebook that accompanies the cards, Monkey has this to say:
“Can you think of things that interest you or that you’re curious about that you’ve never tried before? What comes to mind? Maybe something you’ve always wanted to try but were afraid to do. Don’t let your fear or nervousness get in the way of trying something new. Even adults, when they try something new, get nervous. Ask any one of them and you’ll see that this is true.
“So it’s perfectly normal to be at least a little bit nervous if you do something that is unfamiliar to you. Your nervous system is preparing you for the task by increasing your alertness and attentiveness, which requires you to take in more oxygen, which in turn makes your heart beat a little faster, so it’s a matter of just hanging in there and know that you might be nervous when you tackle any new venture. Ask for help if you need support, and whatever you choose to try, make it an adventure and an opportunity to grow. Then be sure to share with someone what you learned or the story of your adventure.”
A few suggestions of activities that children can do to support this value are offered as well:
* Try something that you’ve never done before, like making up a play to perform for your family, taking swimming lessons, or trying out for a sports team.
* Create a new game with playing cards or create an entire board game.
* Make a list in your journal of FIRSTS, which are new projects or activities that you’ve always wanted to try so that when you do them you can check them off the list.
* Whenever you do try something new, be sure to tell someone about it and how you feel about it.
With younger children, the support of parents is vital. In the guidebook there is an entire section devoted to helping parents know how to work with their children when using the cards. For Monkey, parents can certainly generate their own ideas to help children try new adventures but also here are a few that they can also try:
* Give your child suggestions often of new things to try until they find something they want to do and help them with it as much as necessary.
* As your child develops, incorporate them into those daily activities that you perform to the degree that they are capable of participating.
* Tell them about times when you’ve tried something new and unfamiliar, how it worked for you, and how you dealt with any fear or nervousness.
* As they witness you trying new things it will help them have greater courage themselves when they set out to do something new.
*Have them help with making something that has a new food item you’d like them to try but haven’t yet. Their participation in the preparation will make it more enticing to try.
*Sign them up for an afterschool activity that you think they have potential for and require they finish the initial session but they can decide to return or not once complete.
Trying something new is a way of tasting life to the fullest, stretching yourself and your talents. As we grow and mature new horizons open up along with opportunities to try new things. It may help to have the support of friends and family, particularly when the undertaking is substantial, but it mainly takes the spirit of adventure to prompt us to take the risk with trying new things. So much in our world is the result of someone or a group of people taking that kind of chance.
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”
“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” —Andre Gide
“No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.” —Helen Keller