The new Year of the Rabbit is the perfect time to take the leap by learning or trying something new. You can take up ceramics, learn French, start a book club, plant a seed, go back to the dating scene, or try indoor rock-climbing. As for me, I have to learn how to drive again.
I started learning how to drive in 2016 and encountered several accidents in the first few years. As time passed, I became more fearful and started to avoid driving by myself. I do not want to quit just yet. I am slowly regaining the confidence I once had.
The thing that no one mentions about stretching yourself is that it really sucks sometimes. Yes, trying new things is exciting, but it can also be terrifying and embarrassing. Getting over the initial fear of trying new things and actually having fun is part of the journey.
On that note, here are four strategies you can apply to overcome the fear of trying new things.
#1: JUMP WITH THE RIGHT MINDSET
People tend to approach a new experience in two ways – wanting to learn a skill or wanting to master it. The former encourages the learner to make mistakes and figure out how to do the process while having an enjoyable time. While the latter finds delight in doing well, impressing others, and discovering their natural talent in something.
Learning a new skill and having the ability to laugh at your own mistakes takes off the pressure. Creating mishaps is part of the process. For instance, you want to finish a marathon. Running in under two hours can be your goal, but getting in shape and meeting new friends are worthy outcomes too.
#2: REMEMBER THAT IT’S OKAY TO NOT LOVE IT RIGHT AWAY
No matter what new skill you are trying to learn, it is more likely that you won’t have a blast at the beginning. Organizational behavior researcher Keith Rollag once highlighted: “From an evolutionary standpoint, trying new things, for much of human history, could have been dangerous. Your performance can have a big impact on your status.” Status affects our ability to get the resources we need to survive. The fear of trying new things was an issue of survival.
One of the challenges of starting new experiences, joining new groups, and meeting new people is the anxiety of being the newcomer. Not loving the process right away is not a sign that you have made a terrible mistake. Instead, it is part of being human.
#3: DON’T CONFUSE YOUR FEELINGS
Anxiety and excitement are two sides of the same coin. Ever notice that all these feelings manifest in the same way? Whether you are nervous or excited, you get butterflies in your stomach and sweaty palms. You pace back and forth. Notice a man in his first job interview and compare it with a man who is about to propose. Both men feel adrenaline coursing through their veins. The body interprets the high-stakes situation in the same way.
This just shows that the brain is creating the story we tell ourselves. Bringing awareness to this fact will help us to manage our feelings better.
#4: BREAK IT DOWN INTO SMALL PARTS
The best way to deal with your current situation is to break down a task into manageable steps. When Michael Phelps competed in the Beijing Olympics, he had to swim with visual challenges. His goggles began filling with water the moment he dove in the 200-meter butterfly race. He recalled the race in an interview with CBS News:
“They started filling up more and more and more. And about 75 meters left in the race, I could see nothing. I couldn’t see the black line. I couldn’t see the T. I couldn’t see anything. I was purely going by stroke count. And I couldn’t take my goggles off because they were underneath two swim caps.”
Despite not being able to see where he was and where he was going, he counted the strokes. He bagged the gold medal in that race and broke the world record. Breaking down the task into several parts motivated him to finish the race. A person who is learning how to drive can start by learning the safety protocols and theoretical background of driving, before practicing in an actual driving course.
Learning takes time and your journey is uniquely yours.