One of the things about being an adult is that we have a pretty good handle on what we’re good at – and what we’re not.
And we’ve probably been good at our good things for a while now. So then as we seek out or experience something new, there is an adjustment that often follows. Sometimes the adjustment is quick and feels like a positive add. Other times the new thing leaves us feeling a bit off center and uncomfortable.
The Bottom Line on Top of this episode is that the novelty of new can bring many gifts, but first it will challenge us to be ready to receive them.
Our brain doesn’t always welcome comfort. After all, its job is to keep you safe – and, like you, it is very good at its job. So as you’re going about your day, your brain is hard at work helping pay attention to the complex world around us. We spend most of our time in our comfort zone, where it is familiar, and we have tried-and-true tools to tackle the day ahead of us.
When we get outside this comfort zone, our brain goes on high alert and is looking for potential danger. But safe isn’t a long-term strategy and discomfort isn’t the same as danger. In fact, it’s often the price of admission for the path to progress.
I watched this up close recently as my son started a new college. His brain was sending lots of signals as he adjusted to the steep learning curve of being in a new environment with new people.
On day one, he was energized by the experience. On days two and three, fear was a steady companion as he tackled homework, parking, traffic, and all the feelings that come when doing the new. Maybe you should quit, his brain whispered to him.
By day four, patterns were starting to emerge, support was forming, and new was becoming more familiar – his brain calmed down.
“If it scares you a bit, it might be a good thing to try,” says American author Seth Godin.
Easier said than done, but there are some tools that can help new be a little easier when you’re in it.
One tool that can help sort through stress is to focus on the simplest action that is needed next. Episode 48 outlined the step called MINS, that’s an acronym for the Most Important Next Step. This framework shifts the focus from the many, many details into the first-one-first.
And ‘important’ in this context doesn’t have to mean big or challenging. It’s about helping you find the next Next. Steps, no matter how small, keep us moving forward. And some days, it’s the movement that matters – not where or when or even how we finish.
Another important reminder when dealing with new-ness is from the field of physiology. This is the science behind the chemistry and physics of our bodies. During times of change, physiology can play a key role in helping you adapt. For today’s conversation, the two key physiological areas that can help quickly are hydration and sleep.
Starting with sleep, episode #29 was digging into the productivity benefits of sleep, so the context here of sleep in times of new things is about recognizing the physical fatigue you may feel when experiencing changes. You might feel more sluggish or more tired than normal. Those are both common reactions to all the racing around the mind is doing as new things unfold.
Related to that is hydration. Many studies have shown that an increase in water can quickly boost your focus and your brain performance. So this is an area where more can help get you more. A little extra attention in these two areas may help as you navigate new roads.
Change won’t always be easy, but we can take a little extra care in certain places so that it doesn’t have to be extra hard. Whatever new roads find you, I hope you enjoy the new journey as much as the destination it brings.