I am unusually smitten with my life. I love:
- Living in perpetual summer between Vancouver and Cape Town.
- Having adventures and hanging out with my family and friends.
- The workout-life balance that keeps me feeling (and looking) super fit.
- Challenging people to live extraordinary stories on this blog.
My life’s not perfect (…yet). For instance, I wouldn’t mind making a bit more money. But I honestly believe my life keeps getting better. And I keep getting better.
The number one thing I attribute to such a loving relationship with my life?
I can’t help you replicate that. But I can help you with the second biggest contributor to keeping the spark alive:
Not a word? It needs to be. And I’d argue that anyone who wants their life to keep getting better and better needs to be uncomplacent.
With that in mind, here are some new things to try. They worked for me. I suspect if you try them, you’ll get lucky and they’ll work for you, too.
“Quick Experiment” New Things to Try
✓ Spark better conversations.
I introduced conversation starters to my life, and to my then-girlfriend-now-wife Kim after I read about Art Aron’s 36 Questions to Fall in Love in Chip and Dan Heath’s book, The Power of Moments.
Those questions made for WAY better conversation, made me fall in love with Kim more than ever, and made me fall in love with conversation starters.
One example to get you started:
If you could give everyone in the world one personality trait, what would it be?
✓ Use artificial intelligence for real-life improvements.
This is the newest of the new things to try on this list.
I finally gave into the ChatGPT hype, played around with it, and figured out some practical uses for it:
- Serving as a diplomate to soften my communication.
- Defending me from closed-mindedness.
- Guiding me on tough decisions.
✓ Eat a messy meal with your hands.
I re-learned the childish delight of finger-feeding myself while traveling in Sri Lanka. There, eating “messy” foods like curry with your hands is customary.
It made each meal literally more sensational, made me more conscious of what I was eating, and seemed to reignite my childhood open-mindedness.
When I later researched the science of taste perception, I learned that eating with your hands can improve the taste of your food. It may even be healthier.
✓ Sit down to pee.
I was 30 years old when I was finally manly enough to accept that sitting down to pee is the way to go (…number 1…at home…not in nasty public restrooms or in nature).
It’s less messy (I don’t care how accurate you think you are), more relaxing, and I never have to fight with Kim about whether to leave to toilet seat down.
✓ Do SHIIT workouts.
You’ve probably heard of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) before.
SHIIT is the super intense version of that.
Simple example workout:
- Sprint for a minute as if an ax murderer’s chasing you.
- Gasp for breath for one minute.
- Repeat ten times.
Since getting inspired to try SHIIT-ing myself from Martin Gibala’s book, The One-Minute Workout, my cardio has dramatically improved and I feel higher energy all day… except at the end of my workouts, when I’m completely wiped.
✓ Host a “Priya Parker” dinner party.
My experience has been that hosting any sort of dinner party is an improvement over eating at home alone in front of a screen. And I’d argue it beats eating out with friends.
But for a truly memorable get-together that creates a stronger connection with your guests, Kim and I have learned to host Priya Parker-style dinner parties.
This means being intentional about our party’s purpose and planning everything else —who to invite, how to make it happen, where to do it, and what to serve—around that objective. It takes more thinking in advance, but you and your guests will think it’s worth it after.
Kim is so into these dinner parties that she started a blog on the topic, Feed My Friends.
✓ Organize a blind taste test.
Ever since some friends and I went way overboard with a blind taste test of 36 different beers in college, blind taste tests have been my favorite excuse to get together and get gluttonous.
Kim is on board now, too. It’s our go-to move for making new friends and learning about local foods and drinks in countries we go to (like Colombian aguardiente and cheese).
It’s also the best way to settle an argument when I think Kim’s spending too much money on some hipster, artisanal brand of coffee/chocolate/croissant/sushi/etc.
“Simple Habit” New Things to Try
✓ Learn less.
I used to gorge on the bottomless supply of free information in my Twitter and podcast feeds. I dove into non-fiction books deep into the night. And I compulsively snacked on email newsletters throughout the day.
All this information consumption made me mentally and physically jittery. But instead of feeling the urge to cut back, I wanted more and more. I became an information diabetic.
My saving grace?
The birth of my son Zac.
He forced me into an extended information fast.
This break helped me discover a sort of information insulin—a way to filter out nutritious information from the hollow crap that only makes me want more:
Pronounced “wide-body,” it stands for, What will I do differently based on this information?
By applying it, I’ve come to realize that most of the information I was overindulging in wasn’t doing me any good. So I cut back.
✓ Exchange daily gratefuls with your partner.
I started giving Kim a “daily grateful” in November 2015. Thousands of gratefuls later, I’m still going strong with something new every day.
So is our relationship!
Kim and I agree that our gratitude exchanges have played an important role in keeping it that way.
✓ Track your time like an accountant.
Also in 2015, I started keeping a log of everything I do—all day, every day. And, like the daily gratefuls from the previous new thing to try, I’m still at it.
Among many benefits, “lifelogging” makes me more aware of how I spend my time, keeps me from wasting it, and seems to slow it down. It also acts as my second brain, preserving valuable memories and information that would have otherwise distorted or disappeared forever.
✓ Ditch the gym.
I used to be a flexing-biceps-in-the-mirror gym monkey. And I enjoyed it.
But since I got into working out outside during my pretirement, when I was too cheap to pay for a gym membership, I’ve learned I appreciate the fresh air and natural movements (handstands, sprints, jumps, climbs) much more.
✓ Tape your mouth shut at night.
Taping your mouth looks and feels crazy, but the rewards are worth it, even if you’re already a nose breather.
It was the first of three steps in my self-transformation from fly-swallowing mouth breather to noble nose breather.
- Reduced incidence of snoring.
- Increased nitrous oxide in your blood, which improves circulation.
- Better temperature regulation.
- Reduced allergic reactions by filtering the air.
- Less dehydrating than breathing through your mouth, which causes you to wake up to drink water and pee in the middle of the night.
- Building the healthy habit of nose breathing throughout the day.
- Something new to try that motivates you to keep tinkering.
✓ Stop following the news so much.
I used to spend a lot of time every day keeping up to date with the news. I believed it was my duty as a concerned citizen. And I thought it made me smarter.
But after reading Stop Reading the News by Rolf Dobelli and going through some thought experiments, I’ve realized it’s in my best interests—and in society’s best interests, too!—to cut my consumption significantly.
“Minimally-Risky Plunge” New Things to Try
✓ Eat nothing.
Since I took the plunge with my first-ever three-day fast, I’ve done dozens more. I no longer feel unhealthy food cravings, I get a spiritual and productivity boost every time, and, if there’s anything to the science of fasting, I’m increasing my odds of living a longer, healthier life.
✓ Get off your big comfy bed.
Since I started experimenting with sleeping on the floor, I’ve come to believe, “You are what you sleep on.” And I don’t mean you’ll feel like a million bucks if you spent that much on a mattress.
My body and mind feel harder and more resilient than ever. And my sleep has improved, too (after an adjustment period).
A word from the wise: Don’t go straight to sleeping on unpadded hardwood. Ease the transition. Try a thin mattress on top of a carpet with plenty of padding to start.
✓ Wear merino wool.
I got my first merino shirt a few years ago. Now, all of my shirts are made of the material.
Merino is magically anti-odor, wrinkle-resistant, and insulating. While it’s most popular as a technical fabric for outdoor enthusiasts, it’s becoming increasingly popular in everyday wear.
✓ Take on a mini research project.
My first mini research project was on how to change someone’s mind. I’ve since researched topics like changing my own mind, gift-giving, training my sense of taste, and improving my relationship with Kim.
Now, I’m learning how to learn.
There’s no doubt I’m better off for having done these deep dives rather than skimming the surface of a million other topics.
✓ Climb “the nature pyramid.”
I’ve never thought of myself as an “outdoorsy” person. But then I read about “the nature pyramid” in Michael Easter’s The Comfort Crisis.
As it happened, I’d discovered the joys of spending time on level one of the pyramid the month before. I’d just finished a 30-day challenge of doing a 20- to 40-minute “empty-pocket walk” every day in the woods or along the beach (another new thing to try, by the way).
Level two of the pyramid is five hours a month hiking, picnicking, biking, or whatever in parks outside of town.
And level three, the peak, is three or more days in the wild. The real wild: no cell phone signal or outhouses.
So when a friend invited me on a 5-day canyon adventure, I was keen to see what the view was like from the top of the nature pyramid.
It was extraordinary. I experienced what neuroscientists call “the 3-day effect” and came away believing that escaping into nature is the most all-inclusive and underrated form of self-help out there.
✓ Take on a 30-day challenge.
Yes, 30-day challenges are not a novel idea for a new thing to try. But that doesn’t make them worth considering.
They’re a great way to start developing better habits, work on developing systems instead of goals, and give you positive momentum that will improve your chances of succeeding at larger, longer challenges.
I’ve done tons of 30-day challenges:
- Empty pocket walks
- No podcasts (a.k.a. “podfasting”)
- Unlocking my phone less than 500 times in the month
- Learning to like black licorice
- Daily mobility
And I’ve got dozens more creative, crazy, kinda fun monthly challenge ideas on the docket.
I’m such a fan that I’ve started organizing group monthly challenges with readers.
“No Turning Back” New Things to Try
I pretired when I was 27. By that, I mean I quit working to get a taste of retirement before I had accumulated enough savings to actually retire.
It took a few years and multiple misadventures, but I eventually found my way into a career I don’t ever want to retire from.
✓ Move to a new country.
For Kim and I, moving to Medellin, Colombia for six months jumpstarted our life makeover. The stimulation of a different language, climate, and culture and new foods and friends opened us up to trying most of the other new things in this post.
Since then, we’ve moved on to live in Essaouira, Morocco; Valencia, Spain; and Cape Town, South Africa. We’ve fallen in love with the latter and now split our time between there and Vancouver, Canada, enjoying perpetual summer.
✓ Have a kid.
Thanks to Zac, I have less money, free time, and sleep, and more worries and responsibilities. He’s made my life objectively worse.
So why do so many new parents say, “Having a kid was the best thing that’s ever happened to me?”
Mostly, I think they’re self-justifying to save themselves from collapsing into an exhausted puddle of diaper lotion.
In my case, my answer is this:
Our goal in life isn’t for it to be as easy and happy as possible. It’s to live a story worth telling. And the ups and downs of having a kid enhance the adventure.
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About the author
I'm Chris. Grinding for conventional super success was exhausting, so I zagged. Now, my life's getting better and better—and part of that involves pushing you to work toward the same.
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