It is January 16, so 2008 isn’t exactly “new” anymore, although it still has that “New Year Smell.”
In contemplating this month’s Action Mail, I considered a message that would help you to move beyond resolutions and implement “New Year’s Evolutions” that had lasting impact. But I did that already, two years ago.
I could advocate seeing your desired life improvements not as daunting changes but as “A New Normal” you already possess. But that was last year.
Check the archives for those posts, if you wish, as they remain valid today. But, without a doubt, they are no longer “new.”
And that leads us to this year’s message: What’s new? Or, rather, what is “new?” And why is it so important to us?
Without a sense of “newness” we are unable to create or feel fulfilled. Without a hunger for new thoughts, new achievements, or new experiences, you are directed by someone else’s wishes, or by the random events that come your way.
So this month’s Action Mail is about how you can hang on to “new,” carry it with you every day, and create better experiences and improved results for yourself and for others.
As human beings, we are natural predictors. We try to anticipate what is coming next, we prejudge situations, and we constantly categorize everything and everyone we meet. It’s how we make sense of the world, and how we protect ourselves from harmful situations.
The problem with this “reflex” is that it has a way of narrowing your view and your available options. If you enter a situation with a specific, predetermined expectation, you immediately limit the chance of something better. Or, when the outcome doesn’t match your expectation, you see it as wrong or disappointing, rather than a new and different possibility.
The key to enjoying life and success, in my view, is to pursue the possible instead of the predictable. Approach conversations and experiences with a sense of wonder: I wonder how this is going to turn out. It’s not up to you to decide how it “must be” or “should be.” Your challenge is to show up, participate, and engage life.
Here are three ways you can “keep it new” and open up to stimulating possibilities.
1. Rediscover your work. Last week, I was talking with Brian McDonald, a story development expert who works with Disney, Pixar Animation, and LucasFilm. I asked Brian about advanced story techniques (hoping for some magic secret I could use in my own writing and speaking). He told me “Advanced is just a deeper understanding of the basics.”
That statement corresponds with Steve Martin’s opening line from his new book (which I highly recommend), Born Standing Up: “I did stand-up comedy for eighteen years. Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four were spent in wild success.”
People who enjoy “wild success” are those who continue to explore and better understand the basics of their job or craft. Take this approach with your job. Expect to learn something new from every encounter, and your interest will deepen along with your experience.
2. Rediscover the people in your life: loved ones, co-workers, customers, and even the people you have been avoiding. Don’t settle for the status quo with relationships. Explore new territory. People are constantly changing, which means that every relationship is always new.
3. Focus Outward. We get so trapped inside the prism (or prison) of our perspective that we lose sight of newness. Turn your attention outside of your personal view. Watch other people. Look at life, art, business, and nature. Draw from every exposure, not simply from the limits of your internally-generated thoughts and personal experience. As you focus outward, you will be bombarded by newness and your sense of awe soon becomes awesome.
And, the next time someone asks you “What’s new?” or “What’s happening?”, resist the reflex to respond by saying “Not much,” “nothing,” or “same old same old.” Instead, tell them “Everything’s new!” It is far more interesting and accurate.
Let’s make every day a world premiere! Your partner in action,