Life Coaching: To Feel Alive, Try Something New

Those who know me personally or who follow my life coaching blog might be aware that early morning lap swims are my thing. I began swimming for exercise later in life, and even swam competitively for a time. I’m an L4 Master Swimmer at American University, and it has added so much to my life.

Many of my clients come to coaching feeling stuck, stale and looking for change. Powerful questions are part of my life coaching toolbox. One of the most effective questions I ask my clients is:

When was the last time you tried something for the first time?

I then listen for clues to help a client take baby steps to breathe new life into their situation.

One of the best ways to become “unstuck” is to get out of your comfort zone, take a risk and do something completely different.

When was the last time you tried something for the first time?

People who know me well know I also practice what I preach. I am constantly trying new things. Part of the coaching philosophy I learned during my life coaching certification with the CTI (co-aCTIve) Institute, an organization with a 25-year track record of success whose founders were among the initial pioneers of the life coaching profession, has to do with staying in balance. The CO represents “being” and the ACTIVE represents “doing”. As a life coach I have learned that it takes constant work to keep yourself balanced on the seesaw of “being” vs. “doing”. For me to feel good about my professional work I know I have to keep growing, learning and staying in balance. To stay fresh and invigorated I knew it was time to try something really different and stretch myself emotionally and physically.

I had always been curious about kickboxing, but was too intimidated to try it – and too much “in a routine” – to branch out. Swimming is quite a workout. It keeps me in shape. It’s my go-to “me time.” It’s quiet, solitary and there are no mirrors. I already have all of the gear I need.

When was the last time you tried something for the first time?

at-desk-brightKickboxing was WAY outside my comfort zone, so I decided it was the perfect “new thing” to try. I researched a class and found the one for me. I have to admit I was a bit relieved when I learned that we would not be hitting each other – or bags – during the class. I wouldn’t need any fancy equipment.

Still, it was a pretty intimidating situation to walk into. That first day I immediately noticed that the teacher was younger than me, in her 40s, very fit and had on the cutest kickboxing outfit. And there were mirrors everywhere!

Kickboxing could not be further from my comfort zone! Help, what was I doing?

But I had committed to this, so in I went that very first day. I hung towards the back of the class so as not to draw to much attention to myself. The music was LOUD and as the class began, I noticed how fast-paced the moves were. “What have I gotten myself into?” my inner voice cautioned. Then another voice, the voice of my inner life coach asked me: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

I could possibly be embarrassed. I might get really sore. I could be the worst person in the class. But then I reminded myself that none of those “worst case scenarios” were really that bad. I was creating most of them in my mind.

When trying something new, I advise my life coaching clients that the worst thing that will usually happen is what you tell yourself in your own mind. The good news is: you have complete control over what you tell yourself!

The potential rewards outweighed the possible risks, so I started in with kickboxing. As I studied the teacher’s movements and did my best to follow along, I noticed there were various degrees of physical fitness in the room. Some of us stuck to our own pace, not going as fast with the movements. We didn’t all have the fanciest workout clothes. At the end of that first class, every single person in the room was smiling.

Seven months later, I have surprised myself: I am still kickboxing! I found something new I love. I’ve met some interesting new people, and I am energized by it. My teacher would be happy to know I’ve even woken up some muscle groups I didn’t even know I had!

Why I’m Always Trying New Things

By trying something new for the first time, you might discover:

  • Adding a new skill gives you challenge and adventure, crucial values for someone feeling stale,
  • Learning something new requires focus and concentration, which keeps your brain cells stimulated and growing.

The Brain-Science Behind “Novelty”

Shonda Rhimes’s bestselling book “Year of Yes” is a case study in the power of trying new things. In it, the author (creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and several other popular TV shows) discloses that she actually is an introvert who rarely tries new things. During her “Year of Yes,” she challenged herself to say “yes” to things she never would have before, and the results are life-changing.

When you try something new – like putting yourself in a new environment or trying to learn a new thing – your brain sits up and takes notice. Researchers have shown that the brain requires energy and focus to create a new “mental map” of its surroundings. The newness creates a sense of the unknown, even possible “danger”. For our ancestors, this “danger” was quite real: there was no guarantee that, when exploring an unknown part of the woods, a lion wasn’t going to jump out at any given moment. The alert, vigilant brain is the logical survival response. A release of hormones like norepinephrine and dopamine are part of this response, and can make us feel more alive and connected to our surroundings. Who doesn’t want to feel invigorated, excited, aware or “in the zone”? When things go well in a new situation, we interpret novelty and the associated feelings as good, even great.

Sitting in the same place all day at a desk – taking the same commute home every day – going to the same gym – eating the same meal and relaxing in front of the TV – provides zero novelty. Your brain can actually disengage with its surroundings and you might even go into an imaginative state. Don’t get me wrong: there is a time and a place for daydreams and imagination. But with this as the daily routine, it’s not hard to see why many people feel numb, like they are on auto-pilot. Many of my clients come to me when they are feeling unfulfilled or with a nagging sense that they should be doing more with their lives. When we try new things, we add excitement to our lives. We test ourselves, we learn and we grow.

“A lot of people dream. And while they are busy dreaming, the really interesting, powerful, engaged people? Are busy doing.” Shonda Rhimes

Trying New Things Can Help You to Be Present

There’s no denying it: when you are completely engaged in what’s happening around you, you feel GREAT. This kind of feeling not only creates joy and happiness, but also helps to increase performance, productivity and creativity.

This is why traveling to a new place, taking a class or changing up daily routine can help you see everything in a new light.

Beware of attaching a desired “outcome” to every new thing you try. The best part of trying something new might not be immediately apparent. Sometimes the “new thing” can be slowing down, taking a walk in the woods behind your house, playing a game with your family or cooking a beautiful meal. Falling in love with what you are doing in this moment or “being present” is the key. From the most mundane of things to peak experiences, living with gratitude for what is allows every moment to be a celebration. Read more about gratitude journaling – another way to feel great, fast – here.

Warning: Trying New Things Can Be Contagious!

One morning in the pool locker room, I shared my kickboxing experience with a few of my lap swim buddies. The “try something new” challenge became contagious! A friend finally tried a Soul Cycle class she’d been wanting to try with her daughter, and other friends are planning new adventures too. Trying new things has taken on a life of its own, and we’re all riding the wave!

Life Coaching and Trying New Things

Are you ready to work with me, asking the powerful questions that can take your happiness, self-confidence and personal satisfaction to a whole new level? If you feel disengaged, like you’re on auto-pilot or less-than-totally-turned-on by your life, contact Catharine Ecton Coaching today. Here are some of the things my clients say they’ve gained as a result*:

  • Inspiration
  • Self Confidence
  • Self Awareness
  • Ability to go outside their comfort zone
  • A feeling of fulfillment
  • An alliance with me
  • New perspectives
  • The ability to stay focused
  • Better decision making ability
  • Peace & contentment
  • The ability to see themselves in a positive way

*All of the above drawn directly from my many happy client testimonials! Read all of my Life Coaching testimonials here.

Contact me for a complimentary, no-obligations life coaching consultation to discuss the possibilities. Or use the Appointment Scheduler and pick a time that works for you. I coach 90% of my clients over the phone, and my DC-based Life Coaching clients have the option of meeting with me in person. I look forward to hearing from you.