The old saying, "variety is the spice of life", really does capture something powerful. We all crave certainty to varying degrees, but also have a love and passion for uncertainty. We thrive off of new experiences -- especially when they push us beyond what we thought we were capable of. For some, it may be conquering fears; for others, it may be something that expands their knowledge, insight, or creativity. Regardless of reasoning, partaking in activities that are new to us generally enrich our lives; the times in which they don't, we can still learn valuable lessons.
I recently had the opportunity to partake in a traditional sweat lodge, and I'll tell you -- it was certainly an enriching experience. Being a bit of a philosophy nerd, I'm very open to learning about others' beliefs, traditions, and values. Having the honour and privilege of taking part in a ceremony borne from the very land we call home was both awe-inspiring and humbling. Learning the history of the sweat, the meaning behind each of the 'four doors', and how valuable it is to aboriginal culture is something I cannot begin to express my gratefulness for. I won't go deeper into explaining the experience, because it's really something that has to be experienced to truly understand, but suffice it to say that I valued every moment of it.
The grimly amusing part of this story is that, not so long ago, I would have had no interest in expanding my horizons. I was (and to a degree, still am -- though I'm working on it!) a very certainty-driven person, needing to control every aspect of my life; I feared that which I did not understand, and felt that I "knew better". I wanted my life to be better, or more exciting, or, well, more -- the only problem was that I just expected it to happen. Whether it be a sense of entitlement or some skewed idea of deserving a reward, I felt that my life should be enriched just because. It's taken me quite some time to realize that, whilst change may be inevitable, we can create positive change in our own lives through our choices and actions. Living in our comfort zones may be just that -- comfortable -- but we're never pushed to grow or better ourselves there.
As I made note of, new experiences don't always fit in the 'amazing and wonderful' category. Sometimes when trying something new, we have a negative experience -- but that's alright. Not that I wish ill on anyone, but there are important things to be gleaned from something that doesn't exactly work out. Whether it be us learning that we don't happen to like a particular thing (a new food, perhaps), or have an experience that tries our patience or tests our resilience, we still learn, grow, and expand ourselves. Stepping out of our comfort zones is seldom easy, but we should not constrain ourselves in order to limit our exposure to potential negative outcomes; when we try to shield ourselves and block out the negative, we invariably block out the positive as well.
Ultimately, having the strength and confidence in ourselves to step outside our boundaries, looking to have positive and enriching experiences, creates an environment ripe for personal growth. To push forward and not settle for the 'norm' is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves. After all, "If you want something you've never had, you have to do something you've never done."
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