The Real Reason You Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Trying New Things

When was the last time you tried something new?

Q: The older I get, the harder it is to try new things. How can I get out of this rut?

The doctor says…

Despite what the old adage says, you can teach an old dog new tricks. And I don’t believe that learning those new habits or hobbies becomes more difficult as we get older. What does become more challenging as we mature, though, is fitting in learning a new behaviour with all the other competing priorities we have to balance: work, family, existing relationships and even a little downtime for ourselves.

Shaking things up a little by learning a new skill as an adult can be particularly rewarding, but if we really want to make the new behaviour stick, we need to be strategic about it. This is where the concept of SMART (or specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-based) goals comes in. It’s difficult to change our behaviour or set goals when we dive in without planning, and we may quickly feel overwhelmed and frustrated and be more likely to quit. For example, if you decide that you want to expand your cooking repertoire, first narrow it down. What would that look like? Learning to master Italian cooking might be a good place to start, and it’s less daunting than the vague goal of “becoming a great cook.”

Setting Smart Goals

Once you’ve identified a specific goal, think about what it would look like. For example, acquiring the skills to cook a fabulous Italian meal or becoming competent at a few core dishes would be a great way to measure this skill. Decide if this goal is attainable. Look around to see if there are classes you can take or find a friend who can set aside time for you to learn together, watching videos or using a cookbook. Also, ensure that you have the appropriate tools you need. Are special pans or utensils necessary? If so, are they in your budget or should you plan on saving for them or making this a holiday gift request?

Also, look at your basic skill set and decide if it’s realistic to set this goal. Should you start at Cooking 101? Though Italian cooking may be your long-term goal, you may feel intimidated starting off in a class that caters to more-experienced cooks if you’re a novice and you may be more likely to quit.

Finally, do you have the time to learn this skill? Can you give yourself a deadline? If you plan to go to a class with a friend every Thursday evening, this might mean thinking through child care or other obligations. Also, set a deadline, like planning to cook dinner for
your partner for your anniversary,so you have something to work toward that will help with your behaviour change.

This process can be used to both break bad habits and acquire new ones. Before long, your funk will be a thing of the past.

Dr. Valerie Taylor is a psychiatrist-in-chief at Women’s College Hospital. Follow them on Twitter at @WCHospital

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