At a book signing for my new book Honor Yourself last summer, I met a special young lady who taught me to appreciate the “firsts” in life—no matter what age we are.
She was about 5 or 6 years old, and she told me about a trip she would be making in a few months to Virginia for a wedding.With just a touch of timidity and a heart full of excitement, she explained to me that it was the first time ever she would be flying on an airplane. As we talked, we realized that it was also the first wedding she would be attending, the first time she would be a flower girl, the first visit she would be making to Virginia, and the first time she would be in the spotlight, walking down the aisle in front of a lot of people. I watched her eyes open wider and wider as it dawned on her how many new experiences she was going to have.
Come to think of it, her life is chock full of “firsts.” It was probably the first summer she had ever gotten her face painted and even the first time she had ever stopped by a book signing. It was certainly the first time she was able to read the words off the pages of my new book (she really is reading in that picture!).
Running through all those “firsts” with her was refreshing. After all, that’s what puts the sparkle into life, isn’t it—experiencing new things, or at least doing the things we do as if we are touching, feeling, tasting, and seeing them for the first time?
As I started the new year and pondered the goals I would set for myself, my mind wandered back to my new friend. I asked myself: How many simple and joyful “firsts” had entered my life last year? How many was I banking on this year?
Opening Up to the New and Wonderful
I realized in that moment that we don’t have to be a little child to keep counting our “firsts.” Our new experiences don’t have to stop when we’re 10 years old or 30 or 60 or even 90. In fact, whether it’s biting into a juicy, new kind of fruit we’ve never tasted before or sharing a moment of laughter with a chance acquaintance, it’s the “firsts” that keep the excitement in our eyes and the skip in our step.
I suspect that’s part of what the sages of East and West meant when they talked about “becoming as a little child.” You’ve heard those famous lines from Jesus before: “Whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” and “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.”
As it turns out, Taoists sages use similar language as they inspire us to become like an “infant” or “the uncarved block.” Those images are ideals for living life as it is meant to be. The infant is a model for returning to simplicity and being fully receptive, exploring life anew without preconceived notions—being childlike in the most beautiful and sensitive sense of the word. Continuing to delight in new “firsts” helps us to hold on to our sense of wonder and delicious expectation. To experiment, open up, and see things in new ways.
Cultivating that refreshing sense of newness and adventure may take some deliberate effort. It’s all too easy to fall into the sameness of our habits. But if you think about it, there are a myriad of ways to invite new experiences into your life.
You can listen to a different kind of music, paint a brand-new piece of pottery, or watch an entirely new genre of movie or a foreign film. You can try your hand at a new sport or game, intentionally tune in to a program with a different political slant than you usually listen to, or invite a new acquaintance over for dinner. How about cooking an exotic food you’ve never tasted before or taking a short trip to a nearby town or wilderness area you’ve never visited, slowly savoring the new sights, sounds, and smells. Or simply bite into an ice cream cone with a zany new flavor you never imagined possible.
As for me, I’m not quite ready for skydiving, but learning some Spanish and some new dance steps sounds like a lot of fun! Hola!
Honor yourself—your childlike self—by trying this:
• Without holding yourself back or filtering out any possibilities that come to mind, write down a list of “firsts” you’d like to savor.
• Ask yourself what new acquaintances you want to spend time with and write that down too.
• Add a new “first” to your to-do list each week or month. Instead of collapsing on the weekend into your usual routine, spice things up.
• Take some time after your new “first” to reflect on what you experienced, how it made you feel, what you learned.
• Put a reminder on your calendar in two months to revisit your list of “firsts” and add to it.
What are the “firsts” on your list this week/month/year? I’d love to hear about them. If you have a moment, share them with us by leaving a comment!