Although my sister Nancy moved to Greece in the early seventies, it wasn’t until twenty years later that I made my first visit. Not only were the ruins of Athens, Delphi and Corinth new to me, the trip was filled with many other firsts.
I ate food I’d never encountered before, made my way around a country with a different alphabet than ours, and haggled with shopkeepers. All of these new experiences made the trip unforgettable—and taught me things I’d never have learned otherwise.
Of course, we don’t need to travel to distant lands to find new adventures.
From time to time, I do a little inventory to see how many new experiences I’m giving myself. I often think of Gelett Burgess’ observation: “If in the last few years you haven’t discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse. You may be dead.”
I have no desire to end every year with the same opinions and experiences with which I started it. One of the best ways to insure that doesn’t happen is to embrace as many firsts as I can squeeze in.
Firsts are important not only for the pleasure that they bring. They’re also a concrete way to measure growth and progress.
If we aren’t constantly putting ourselves into new situations, trying new things, challenging a fear, opening ourselves to new ideas, meeting different people, how can be possibly become all that we’re meant to be?
“The person who never alters their opinion,” sputtered William Blake, “is like standing water and breeds reptiles of the mind.”
Without a steady stream of new experiences, we are in danger of becoming stagnate. I’ve met too many people who are living proof that this is so.
Some experiences really do only come around once in a lifetime. We don’t get a second chance at some of life’s firsts.
Our first kiss, our baby’s first steps, opening our first business, can only happen once.
There are other firsts we’re happy to have as a singular experience, like eating squid or spending the night in an airport after a flight is canceled.
Sometimes once is enough, but we can’t really know for sure unless we give it a try.
If you really want to build daily excitement and energy, challenge yourself regularly to do things for the first time. Remember that perfection and mastery are not your goals.
Learning more about yourself and expanding your pleasure options are what you’re after here.
Who knows? You might be one of those folks who tries bungee jumping to celebrate your ninetieth birthday. Even if you aren’t, you will never grow dull if you keep looking for ways to experience as many firsts as you can possibly imagine.
So when was the last time you did something for the first time?