December Challenge: Learn Something New Every Day

What can you accomplish in a month? According to science, that’s all it takes to start forming a new habit, and good habits lead to good results. That’s the goal behind our Monthly Challenge, to help you form the right habits – physically and mentally – to make significant strides toward your best, healthiest self.

When was the last time you did something for the first time? Think about it. When?

Some of you may be able to answer this question quickly, but for others, it might be an eye-opening exercise. You see, at a certain point in our lives, many stop trying to do and learn new things. And even those who do often do so on a limited basis within their comfort zones.

For instance, maybe you’re trying a new workout or diet routine. This is good, but is it really that new? Ask yourself, is it actually pushing you outside your comfort zone or just slightly expanding on what you are ready know and do?

After an entire childhood and adolescence of constantly trying new things and pushing boundaries to learn about ourselves and the world, it’s like we reach adulthood and think we know all we need to know and don’t need to try new things. We get into routines, which limits our brain’s ability to learn and expand. Basically, we become complacent.

And even when we try to “break out of the rut,” we often do so in the same, safe ways (no offense, but going to all-inclusive resorts in Florida every year, while nice, is hardly pushing yourself to try new things).

Yet, it’s only when we try to learn new things that we get out of our comfort zones and grow as individuals. It’s not just some hippie-dippy talk, either. There’s actual science to back up how trying and learning new things can benefit your brain and overall well-being.

You see, when we learn/do new things, there’s a section of the brain called the SN/VTA that lights up. This is your brain’s “novelty center,” for lack of a better wording, and when it gets intrigued, it sends a rush of dopamine through your brain. That sudden good feeling can prompt you to dig further into whatever this new thing is, and when the new task, activity, or learning session is over, you get another dopamine hit as a reward.

It is no surprise that research has found dopamine is closely linked to the learning process. Hence why, whether you realize it or not, you may be happier reading this blog as you’re learning something new.

Let’s keep that going!

The challenge: Learn something new every day

Ok. You want to learn and try new things. Where do you start? After all, there’s an endless amount of information to learn, things to do, places to visit, etc. In all reality, there’s so much out there for us to learn and do it can overwhelm and gridlock us from even starting. And that’s not even including the pressure of trying to do it EVERY DAY. Yikes!

It’s ok. Take a breath. In fact, maybe that’s the first new thing you learn is a new breathing exercise for when you’re stressed by asking a friend who once mentioned something he/she does. Then tomorrow, you do an internet search and read a couple of articles about stress. And maybe one of those articles recommends yoga. So, the day after, you watch a video and try yoga for the first time. And then …

You get the point. Learning or doing something new doesn’t necessarily mean you need to do something drastic, like jumping out of a plane. It can often be taking something in your life that you take for granted, have neglected, or dislike, and making it a priority.

Maybe you dislike your job. So, you do an internet search and download an audiobook about a career you want or a skill you’d like to use in your next job, and you listen to it every day on your daily commute. Suddenly, your daily commute becomes a classroom for learning, which creates motivation and a sense of purpose and builds self-esteem. Before you know it, you’re pushing yourself to try a new role in a career you actually enjoy.

This is something I’ve personally done in my career, as have countless others. In fact, there’s a story about a guy who wanted to be a motivational speaker despite having zero training or know-how. So, every day on his way to work, he listened to books on how to do it. Or he’d practice when he got home from work. Finally, five years later, he quit the job he disliked and began living his dream as a motivational speaker.

And that’s the beauty of learning and doing new things. It’s often a positive snowball effect. You learn, feel good, and see positive results, which prompts you to want to learn more, feel even better, and see even more positive results.

So, ready to be happier this month? You can literally, learn to do it.