When was the last time you did something really out of the norm for you? When did you go limits of your familiar way of doing things and tried an entirely different approach? Can’t remember? If so, it’s time to reassess how you are living. It’s time to lean into your inner explorer.
To help you, I’ve designed a four-quadrant model that lets you know exactly where you exist right now. At any given time you are either experiencing something novel or something familiar, and you are either approaching that with an expansive and open mindset, or a contracted and closed one.
When we are doing something familiar in an expansive manner, we are typically in a state of relaxation and control. In contrast, when we caught in the familiar with a contracted and closed mind, we usually feel bored or trapped. On the other end of the spectrum are times when we are faced with something new. When we approach a new situation in a contracted state, we are typically guided by fear and hesitation. In contrast, when we expand into the novelty, we are exploring. It is this upper right quadrant where most of life’s magic unfolds.
The model speaks to two fundamental truths about human nature:
First, we are always caught on a continuum between familiarity and novelty.
We are by nature, curious creatures and drawn towards novel things. We like new stuff: new programs, new movies, new gadgets, new apps, and new experiences as long as they don’t threaten our survival. For this reason, we temper novelty with a precautionary mindset. We default towards the familiar because it provides a comfortable place to live that is free from danger.
Yet, we all have a different tolerance for how much novelty we can tolerate. Like Yin and Yang, when we have too much of one, we desire more of the other. For example, when everything is super familiar—you know that mundane 9-5 Monday through Friday drill—life can lose its zest. We get the itch to do something new, something different, something fun to regain a sense of aliveness. In other words, we need to inject a little more novelty into our routine.
On the other hand, when every day seems completely unplanned, chaotic and haphazard, it is difficult to maintain a sense of grounding or stability. Without some familiarity, we lose any sense of control and often miss out on building lasting relationships.
Secondly, we are always moving towards (expanding) or away from (contracting) our experience.
We typically move towards things we like and away from things we don’t. This much is obvious. But this can also happen on much more subtle emotional and energetic level. Are we opening and engaging with what is right in front of us? Or are we closing and withdrawing into something or somewhere else?
This continuum from contracting to expanding characterizes our experience at any moment. If you don’t believe me, check in with yourself right now. Do you want more of what you are experiencing right now in this moment? If so, you’re expanding. Do you want less? If so, you are contracting.
So how can you become a better world explorer? Simple.
It only requires that you pause and ask yourself two questions:
- Am I looking for novelty in my experience? Is there something fresh, unexpected, or surprising here that I haven’t seen or felt? What can I discover?
- Am I expanding right now? Can I lean in, grow, and engage with my experience rather than disconnect or distract myself.
Ask yourself these two simple check-in questions anytime, anywhere. When it boils down to asking whether you can lean in and discover something new, the answer is almost always a resounding yes. It just takes being present with your self and asking.
Challenge yourself to try it today. If you do this regularly, you’ll begin to develop the mindset of exploration and see the world with a fresh pair of eyes. I promise you won’t want to go back.
Jeffrey Siegel is one of Boston’s premier personal fitness and holistic health coaches. He is the founder of JES Wellness, co-founder of Startup MVMT, and a staff trainer at Brooklyn Boulders Somerville.