Taking Risks, and Trying Something New

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Humans, by their very nature, are creatures of habit.  In fact, we just recently wrote a blog post about using our tendencies towards habit and routine to our advantage.  However, there are times that we need to break a routine, and try something new.  Because we rely so heavily on our habits and routines, the very act of trying something new, from a different route to work, to a new hobby or sport, can be intimidating and daunting.  We’ve curated some strategies and tips to help make trying something new a little less scary.

To illustrate the difficulty, economists studied the behavior of commuters in London when the Underground workers were on strike.  Even when provided with a quicker, more inexpensive route, commuters were more likely to take the route that they were more familiar with, or that their habits were more comfortable with.  In this situation, when there are so many benefits, taking a risk would have paid off.  With everything, a cost-benefit analysis of a risk is worth studying.  Taking on a new sport of parkour, when you are notoriously uncoordinated and have a fear of heights may not be the risk worth taking.  Trying a new food, a new social situation, or a new routine, may have benefits that are worth the risk.

Because humans are so wired to be risk averse, our brains are wired to overestimate the negatives, and to have difficulty seeing the positives.  One technique, when deciding to take a risk, is to let your rational brain take over and develop a pros and cons list.  Letting yourself see everything laid out, side by side, may help.  Additionally, you will learn new things about yourself – hidden talents, buried interests, or new information about what is challenging, and rewarding to yourself.

Learning something new, taking a healthy and calculated risk, and challenging yourself also is a way to stave off boredom.  While humans do have a preference for routine and sameness, there is at the same time a very real need for stimulation.  Taking piano lessons as an adult, learning a new language, or taking on sailing lessons can help maintain interest and focus, even when you are not engaged in that task.

The unknown is a very real fear that many people have.  In fact, in studies, people are more fearful of an unknown consequence rather than a negative consequence.  As the idiom quips, “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.”  While we cannot know every aspect of an unknown situation, mental rehearsal can be beneficial.  Reviewing what you know, what you can expect, and what the positive outcomes can be can make that first day of Spanish class, or the first day of Cross-fit, just a little bit less scary.

While taking risks can have great payoff, balance is as essential as ever.  Changing one aspect of your life dramatically is even more cause for stability in all other areas of your life.  The balance between the novel and the routine can be a tightrope to walk, but the cognitive, emotional, and physical benefits are what makes it all worth it.  Try something new by connecting with one of our providers!

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