This post was originally published on January 23rd, 2018 and has been updated with slight stylistic changes.
Have you ever done something radical?
And no, I don’t mean hanging ten with Michelangelo, stuffing pizza in your face while you fight off Shredder’s minions (although that would be a wonderfully radical experience).
I mean something out of the ordinary.
I’m not saying you need to go discover a new brand new human experience, like seeing a color no other person has ever seen. It only has to be something unique to you. Your uncommon, radical act could be as simple as eating oatmeal for breakfast when you’ve had nothing but cold cereal for the last decade.
We’re all products of our environment. Everything from the food we eat to the clothes we wear to the sports we enjoy is influenced by the people around us. Culture permeates our lives, and few of us stop to think anything of it.
Those of us who do push back against cultural norms often find great joy in doing so. I know I have. Since 2014, I’ve challenged many aspects of how I was raised, with radical shifts in my religious, political, and dietary beliefs being the most prominent.
I’m not here to say that my new beliefs and actions are superior to the old ones, nor am I asking everyone that reads this article to join me by abandoning their religion, voting for Bernie Sanders, and becoming vegan.
The path that has brought me the most happiness in my life surely won’t work for everyone.
But I’ve also experimented with other things, like regular meditation, reading new genres of books, diving into new specialties at work, and making a conscious effort to prefer walking over driving.
Radical acts are radical because they’re life changing, not because they’re huge changes.
Really all I’m asking is:
Do you ever do something new just for the hell of it?
If you don’t regularly step out of your comfort zone, you may be missing out on some of life’s most impactful experiences.
Not every change will become part of your life. You may find out that you really hate biking to work, or that dubstep literally grinds your eardrums into dust. There are many things I’ve tried that never stick around for long (like becoming a morning person — I wrote this particular article at 12:30 AM).
But after every new experience I always come away from it appreciating the knowledge I gained about myself and the world.
The mere act of opening yourself up to radical experiences will enable you to find new joys in life that would otherwise stay hidden away in the fog of inexperience.
I never imagined my life would turn out the way it has, but I love pretty much everything about it. Each day I find myself awestruck at the world around me and wonder how I managed to build such a great life. I’m convinced that had I not begun experimenting with radical changes, I wouldn’t have ended up where I am today.
To this day, I continue to experiment with radical changes. During one six year period in 2018, I tried the following:
- Learned more about user-centered design in order to reinvent myself at work
- Discovered new tastes in music by getting a Spotify subscription and exploring their vast collection of songs
- Gained a new appreciation for cauliflower
- Reduced my stress levels by abstaining from the daily news cycle
- Picked up a guitar for the first time in years
- Finally started reading biographies
Every one of those changes started as something radically new to my life.
And yes, learning how to make food using cauliflower isn’t all that intense. But small changes are still radical in a world where routines largely stay the same.
If you’ve never done something radical (or if you have but it’s been a few years) think of something you’ve always wanted to do. Make plans right now to do it. Sign up for that Brazilian jiu-jitsu class. Attend your local town hall meetings. Become intimately familiar with the best arguments of a political issue that you disagree with. Book that trip you’ve always been wanting to take.
It’s okay if you start small. I did. I know how scary it can be to try new things.
But if you don’t take that chance and if you never do something radical, you may be missing out on some of the greatest moments of your life.
Lane Sawyer is an IT consultant at Pariveda Solutions in Seattle, WA. He enjoys writing articles like this one when he’s not working on some new project, tackling a challenging video game, or running around outside in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. You can find out more about him on his website.