By: Ethan Maurice
Stop just for a second and ask yourself: "When's the last time I did something I had never done before?"
Really think about it... Do you have an answer?
Back in May, I went for a run in the heat of a summer afternoon in Phoenix. The sun cooked me as I coaxed myself along a six-mile route I'd run many times before, but never in such oppressive heat. Halfway through, I became woozy, increasingly unsure I could keep lifting my feet. I slowed to a walk, feeling like I might faint, and immediately my face and hands were overcome with a tingling sensation of pins and needles. I staggered along for a couple minutes until the feeling subsided, then finished running the last few miles. It was the closest I had ever been to overheating. I've gone for a thousand runs, yet I'd never pushed myself that hard. I'd never experienced anything like it before.
Sweat-drenched and head ringing as I walked a cool down lap, the thought occurred to me that I'd just gone outside the bounds of all my previous experience—into personally uncharted territory. Never before had I experienced such sensations on a run or been so close to overheating. Not that overheating on a run in the desert summer heat would have been a positive, but I was happy to have tested my limits and gained a better understanding of my body and how much I can push it.
As I continued walking my cool-down, my thoughts kept running:
As kids, we push the bounds of our experience constantly, doing things we have never done before not monthly or weekly, but daily. However, as we age, this exploration of personally uncharted territory slows until it stops almost completely. And though it could be argued we've already experienced the novelty of childhood and that we don't encounter things we've never done before because we've already done so many things, that's a short-sighted answer. For the world and the experiences that can be had in this life are so vast and varied that, at best, one could experience but a fraction of them in a lifetime. Robert Pirsig once wrote, “We take a handful of sand from the endless landscape of awareness around us and call that handful the world.” Maybe we have experienced the majority of our handful of sand? If so, the task then lies in removing the blinders of habit and experience and grasping another handful.
For venturing into personally uncharted territory is one of the best, healthiest, most invigorating things we can do in life. Doing things we've never done before is simultaneous growth, novelty, learning, and enlargement of our comfort zones. It's an exercise of willpower, of deliberate action, an act that strengthens our ability to deal with difficulty, nerves, and the humbling realization of our ignorance that is inevitably encountered when beginning anew.
This week, I'm assigning homework. Your assignment: Push the bounds of your human experience by deliberately doing something you have never done before.
To read and philosophically agree with something feels nice and important, but if it isn't translated into action, then what's the point? Why bother reading this article if all that results is the mere consideration of this idea for a couple minutes before you and your mind are off to the next thing?
Go out and explore some personally uncharted territory like we all so often did as kids. You don't have to see how close you can get to overheating on a run through the desert; just do something new.
A few ideas to jump-start your creativity:
- Fast for 24 hours.
- Make art.
- Ask a stranger if you can borrow $100 and get rejected.
- Take an ice bath.
- Go skydiving or rock climbing or horseback riding.
- Take someone homeless out to dinner.
- Stay in a 1930's brothel next to Yellowstone and grab a beer with me.
- Do something you've always had a hunch you'd like but have yet to try.
Go push the bounds of your human experience. Let novelty extend your life and pull you into the present. Get to it. You and I—we don't have forever. But we have now, and now is the only time we can ever start.