There’s a country song with the catchy little phrase: “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” Those words have (annoyingly) stuck with me because, well, I haven’t done very much at all for the first time in a long time. This is not good. Not only does it make for a dull, monotonous existence, but nothing new means nothing’s growing.
Life is constant motion—a cycle of birth, growth, decline, death and rebirth—from the smallest scale to the largest. Remember the Lion King and the circle of life? Stagnation is not part of the circle. Stagnation is a block in the natural flow of Life. Stagnation stinks. Flow is fabulous.
If you are a couch potato, you will lose muscle tone and vitality. This is a very obvious, physical sort of stagnation. But there is also mental stagnation: not challenging your brain to grow with new experiences and learning, or only feeding it what you already believe to be true and desirable rather than entertaining new thoughts or music or points of view. There is emotional stagnation, which is stewing in familiar feelings that lead nowhere. In Chinese medicine, stagnation of chi, or life force, is what leads to illness and imbalance.
Too often we think we just are who we are, that we can’t help how we feel or what we think, but that simply isn’t true. We get to decide who we are, what we think, how we behave, and even what we feel (or at least whether we overindulge what we feel, a special talent of mine). The key is awareness. Becoming conscious of the patterns that keep us comfortably stuck is key to disolving the stagnation that makes Kate a dull girl.
Recently I was invited to attend a business networking group. My immediate internal response was, “No, thanks. I don’t do groups.” This is my old pattern. I do prefer working alone or socializing one-on-one, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with this preference, but I’ve developed a rigid belief that says, “Nope, I don’t do groups,” and that “nope” became a block, a point of stagnation for me keeping me in a very small orbit.
It was clear to me that this business group is a no-brainer, a positive step toward creating more work opportunities. Good friends have joined and seen great return from it. So, despite my internal resistance, I went to check it out. It was definitely out of my comfort (read, “no grow”) zone, but to my surprise, I actually enjoyed it. My old thinking that I am not a business person was challenged, my body got out and socializing, and I overrode my emotional pattern of “no groups” by deciding to walk into that room open and receptive and, surprise! I received more than I could have imagined.
Here’s the take-away: There is no growth without discomfort and challenge, but that’s not a bad thing. Discomfort and challenge doesn’t mean “not me.” It means, there’s more me.
Now I have an answer to the question,”When was the last time you did something for the first time?” Last Thursday. It was awesome.