The other day during a yoga class, the instructor invited us to add a few adjustments to the pose we were in. “You can reach upward. You can extend through your toes. You can even extend one leg back,” she said. “And remember, you can always change your mind.” Hmmmm. I thought. That’s new. I’d never heard an instructor say that before. But I immediately noticed a sense of ease around my willingness to attempt the more challenging iterations of the pose. In essence, she was giving me permission to just try.
This struck me as an important life lesson. What if at the outset of any new endeavor—a new job, a new exercise experience, a hobby, a new book—we give ourselves permission to just try? What if we remember going in that we can always change our minds, that trying is just trying, not committing?
The thing about trying something new is that we can’t possibly know going in how we will feel about it once we’ve started. We can predict based on our past experiences and what others might have experienced, but the truth is that we really don’t know what’s going to happen until we try.
I think we all need to fill our lives with more no-strings-attached tries. Here are some ways to do just that:
In 2015, author Elizabeth Gilbert gave a talk for Oprah’s SuperSoul Sessions on the two types of passion-seekers: jackhammers and hummingbirds. While jackhammers fixate on a project or task with relentless, almost obsessive, devotion, hummingbirds move from tree to tree, flower to flower, trying all sorts of things along the way.
This metaphor points to how we can let go of passion and instead follow curiosity. Said another way, we dabble. Dabbling is all about trying new things—hobbies, interests, experiences, foods—for the sake of not only expanding our horizons, but to disrupt our habitual thinking patterns and discover innovative thoughts, ideas and solutions.
You can make trying new things part of your regular routine. Begin with starting a dabble journal or creating a list of things you’d like to explore. Dabbling doesn’t commit you to anything or mean that you have to give up anything; it simply means you check things out. Once you have a solid list, make some time each week to do some dabbling. Watch a YouTube video, go to the library and find some books, listen to a podcast, do some Pinterest pinning, and get out in the world and explore where your curiosity leads you. Notice how this process makes you feel. Be present to the experience of dabbling.
According to Stuart Brown, author of Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, play is an essential part of wellbeing. Why? Because it is in our moments of fun and freedom that we disengage from time, purposefulness and worry. Said plainly, it’s where we find joy, a precursor to optimism, possibility and insight.
But play can feel so indulgent and silly, even awkward. It’s as though we forget how to do it once we become adults. Turns out, we’re simply out of practice. Making intentional space for play is a habit we can cultivate by beginning to consider what makes us laugh and feel unplugged. We prioritize play because feeling good matters.
A life that is devoid of fun and play begins to feel gloomy and lackluster. But when we sprinkle our days with laughter and levity, even our tough moments can feel less difficult. Joy makes life more beautiful, fun and easy. Play makes us feel more alive.
Try making a list of things that are fun to you. Think of board games that make you laugh, and pastimes or hobbies that make you smile. Consider what you loved to do as a kid. Grant yourself permission to set aside time for these activities each day or week.
Consider designating the time between dinner and going to bed as “playtime.” Commit to 30 to 60 minutes of play and fun by yourself or with others. Make play a priority.
I’d never heard the word “flaneur” until l I interviewed Erika Owen on my podcast. Erika was so smitten with the French concept of meaningfully and mindfully meandering through a city that she wrote the book, The Art of Flaneuring: How to Wander with Intention and Discover a Better Life.
Wandering is in direct contrast to our highly purpose-driven way of doing life. Whether we’re at a grocery store or walking through our neighborhood, we know exactly what we mean to do and where we mean to go. But in our single-mindedness and narrowed determination, we miss out on what’s lying at the edges of our attention.
The antidote to this linear thinking and living is what Andrew Dietz describes as purposeful purposelessness in his book Follow the Meander: An Indirect Route to a More Creative Life. When we wander with intention, we cultivate mindfulness and tap into new insights, but also increase gratitude and fall more deeply in love with wherever we are. We loosen our preoccupation with what is in order to create space for what could be.
Try spending some time each day or week being aimless. Set aside ten or fifteen minutes to wander, even if it’s in or around your own home. Resist the urge to do something productive or accomplish anything. Notice any discomfort you feel and use it as an opportunity to be more present. Think of a few places you go each week and look to attach a few aimless minutes to the experience.
And Most Importantly… Embrace Missteps
Before I sold my previous business back in early 2020, I often set off in unchartered directions with a new revenue idea. In one particular instance, an idea sent me down an exciting but very expensive road. The concept never panned out and it ended up costing far more money that I had anticipated. I learned a lot from the experience but it started to sow seeds of self-doubt, causing me to shy away from my entrepreneurial inspirations.
What I now see is that life gives us countless opportunities to stretch beyond our own boundaries. New ventures, relationships, even a new hairstyle, gently push us outside of our comfort zones toward our growth and learning zones. Whether things turn out as we hoped is beside the point; the real gold is who we become when we stretch ourselves.
Our missteps and blunders are simply fodder for our development, not evidence that we’re failures. When we embrace the results of our efforts, even when we’d wish those results to be different, we’re able to see how our experiences can shape us for the better, not hold us back.
What could you try today? Find one thing and then give yourself permission to dabble, play and flaneur. And remember, you can always change your mind.
ABOUT KRISTEN MANIERI (COACH, HOST OF 60 MINDFUL MINUTES)
Kristen Manieri is a coach who works with teams to increase both productivity and wellbeing. She also helps individuals navigate transition with clarity and confidence. Her areas of focus are: stress reduction, energy management, mindset, resilience, habit formation, rest rituals, and self-care. As the host of the weekly 60 Mindful Minutes podcast, an Apple top 100 social science podcast, Kristen has interviewed over 200 authors about what it means to live a more conscious, connected, intentional and joyful life. She is the author of Better Daily Mindfulness Habits: Simple Changes with Lifelong Impact. Learn more at kristenmanieri.com/work-with-me.