It can be really easy to get comfortable in life and to only do things inside your comfort zone. You’re unlikely to get hurt here, you might get really good at doing the one thing you know you can do, and your expectations are likely to be in line with what goes on around you so you’re not disappointed.
But the magic doesn’t happen here. I can honestly say that nothing good in my life has ever happened from the safety of my comfort zone. It’s all those moments where you feel challenged, where you think ‘Oh crap, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea’ and then ponder giving up – if you can get through this stage of doubt and make it out the other side – I promise you, this is where the good stuff happens.
If life is starting to feel a bit samey and there’s a bit too much routine – try something new. This is the perfect time to start. It’s a New Year, a fresh slate, a chance to change it up.
If you need a little inspiration, the theme for my new autobiography, Finding My Virginity, is all about how we should never lose the thrill of trying something new for the first time. The book starts out where Losing My Virginity left off and tells the story of my life and the growth of Virgin over the past 20 years. It reveals how my home moved from a houseboat to a paradise island, while my company has grown from a UK business to a global brand. My dream of flying private citizens to space has gone from a childhood fantasy to reality, and my focus has shifted from battling bigger rivals to changing business for good. In this time I’ve experienced joy, heartbreak, hurricanes, business highs, grief, records, doubt and my toughest ever crisis.
Everything that has happened over the past two decades has happened outside my comfort zone – and it’s been an incredible journey.
Here are my top tips for trying new things:
Don’t be afraid. Fear stops people from doing so many things. Don’t be afraid to talk to people you don’t know, or try a new skill. They are probably just as nervous inside, and if you make the effort, people will often surprise you with a warm welcome. Anything feels a little odd the first few times you do it – but the more strangers you meet and talk to, the more comfortable you will start to feel (or like me, you’ll find ways to laugh it off!).
If you’re not sure what you fancy trying, start small. There will be many options on your doorstep. Go to a library - check out a cookbook and try making a few recipes, or loan a book in a genre you would never normally read. Try volunteering – even a few hours of your time can really help someone else and you might learn something new in the process. Try a new sport or even go for a walk in a new location. Get back in contact with someone who has drifted away. We all lead busy lives and it’s easy for friendships to drift apart. Check in with someone who you haven’t spoken to for a while and suggest going somewhere you’ve never been to before.
Keep a journal. I’m a big believer of writing things down. When you try something new, write it down. What did you like about it/dislike about it? Did it spawn any other ideas? Build on these. Make lists of things you would like to try and tick them off as you go.
Persevere. Don’t give up on something straight away – it’s rare that people are good at something the first time they try it. When I tried to surf with Sam on his gap year, I fell over more times than I can count. It’s tough work swimming out to big waves and using a lot of energy to just fall over, time and time again. But eventually you stand up, and what a feeling! The feeling of achievement is so worth the feeling silly as you learn.
I hope these tips have inspired you to get out there and try something new – I’d love to hear about what you’ve been up to in the comments.
The original version of this article can be found on www.virgin.com.