100 New Things in 2017

Two years ago, my sister sent me copy of a book called I Dare Me: How I Rebooted and Recharged My Life by Doing Something New Every Day. She had seen the author, Lu Ann Cahn, speak at a work event and thought of me and my ongoing struggle to get unstuck. I read the book immediately and was super excited to take on the challenge. I convinced my sister to do it with me in 2016, set up a blog for us to post our new things, and started brainstorming new things to do every day. But as January 1st, 2016 approached, work stuff happened and I got stressed out and bailed on the idea.

Fast forward to the end of 2016 which turned out to be one of the worst years of my life. My job got more and more stressful (which I honestly did not think was possible) and my body finally screamed “ENOUGH” so loud that I had to listen. I lined up a new job that would start in early 2017 and got re-inspired to take on the “new things” challenge.

Instead of a new thing EVERY DAY, I settled on 100 new things, which seemed like a nice round number. Two new things a week seemed challenging, but doable. I also decided that blogging AND doing was too much, so instead of blogging I decided to record each new thing with a post on Instagram and Facebook. Social media seemed like an easy way to record my new things for posterity AND keep me accountable. Once you tell the internet you are going to do something, you have to do it (especially if you are an Upholder)!  I didn’t have a set list of new things. I had some ideas on a bucket list, but mostly, I just winged it.

So, why did I really want to take on this challenge?  To me, “recharging my life” meant forcing myself out of my daily grind (and comfort zone) on a more regular basis. I wanted to stop using work as an excuse for not really living. I wanted to stop busying myself with to-do lists of chores and really DO things.  Fun things!  Important things! I thought it might be like changing your set point weight. It’s doable, but hard. It requires consistent, sustainable change and you have to stick with it until it becomes the new normal. My goal was to change the set point of my existence! 

Fast forward to the end of 2017 and I have successfully done 100 new things this year!  (#100 is till a secret, but will be formally announced in my next post, tomorrow.)  You can find the full list here with hyperlinks for more info and you can see how they all played out in pictures (with #hashtag commentary) on Instagram.

Since I didn’t post about them as I went along (which I kind of regret), we will all have to live with this very long summary post and some reflections on the year. (One of my Facebook friends thought I should write a book.  This blog post is almost as long as a book. Not a great blogging technique but keep reading anyway…)

As I look back on the list, there were some key themes. Many of my new things (17 to be exact) were new yoga and meditation experiences. These new things did not take me out of my comfort zone (except for hot, hip hip, candle lit yoga which almost killed me), but my choice to spend so much time on these activities reinforced that these are important practices in my life that I want to continue to grow.

Another key theme was my re-acquaintance with the theater. I forgot how much I love the theater!! This year I saw an interactive theater piece at The Public, Hamilton (an unbelievable work of art), Dear Even Hansen (broke my heart wide open), Indecent (beautifully done), Waitress (not a great show but Sara Bareilles rocked!) and three shows at my local theater (which I am now a member of because they were all amazing).

I also got out and about in nature.  I explored Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, finally made it to the Cloisters and Fort Tryon Park, rode a Citi Bike for the first time during Summer Streets, visited Prospect Park, hiked in the Poconos, and did some indoor climbing at Brooklyn Boulders (which was kind of like being in nature).  These activities were among my favorites for the year. I love to move and be outside and MUST do this more.

Looking at the rest of the list, these are my top five highlights:

  • Phish on New Years Eve (#1) was really fun. I had never heard a Phish song until the week before the show (and I generally prefer Justin Bieber and Kelly Clarkson), but a Phish show is definitely an event. That was an amazing way to kick off 2017.
  • Safari in Botswana (#20 – #29) was life highlight. This trip covered 10 new things because so much amazing stuff happened there! (and it was REALLY out of my comfort zone). Being surrounded by a herd of elephants (#26) and having a hippo walk under our walkway less than 10 feet away (didn’t even make the list because it was dark and flash photography would have been life threatening!) are two encounters I will never forget.
  • The night I went to see Michael Moore’s The Terms of My Surrender (#68) happened to be the night he decided to rent two buses to take the audience up to Trump Tower after the show for an impromptu protest (with some famous friends).  That was very cool (even though I didn’t make it on the bus because I had to stop to pee…but I did walk 10 blocks and met them there).
  • I decided to volunteer for a political campaign for my local city council person this fall (#76). While handing out flyers, some one from the opponent’s campaign tried to get me to switch sides and it almost turned in to a brawl between the campaign managers in Tompkins Square Park.  Then the mayor randomly showed up for some promotional shots with my candidate (who is more liked than he is) and I got sucked in to walking around with him, carrying signs while continuing to fight off the opponent’s supporter who would not give up. That was a crazy morning. I was also intermittent fasting (#73) so I was starving during all of this drama!
  • My acupuncturist convinced me to attend the Womanly Arts Experience .  The intent of Womanly Arts is to help women unleash their full power, have fun, turn on, find their happiness, let go of what is holding them back, and live big.  (Sounds amazing, right?) The weekend involved lots of dancing, female bonding, and intimate sharing with complete strangers.  It is impossible to describe and was not something I thought I would enjoy at all, but it was a lot of fun and I made some great new connections!

So what were my key takeaways?  I definitely had a different mind set this year. I always had to make sure I had something new on my schedule. Some things just happened (like Mac-N-Cheetos and Hardywood Bourbon Barrel Gingerbread Stout), but most required planning and a deliberate effort to get off my couch and do something different than I would have otherwise chosen to do. I was ALWAYS glad I made the choice to try something new and most of them would not have happened if I had not promised the internet I would get to 100.

I have often struggled with the question “Am I afraid to do this, or do I really just not want to do it?” What I learned this year, is that if you are not sure whether you want to do something (and it does not require a huge investment)…just fucking do it! I had so much fun doing things that I had no idea I would enjoy.  I definitely did some things I didn’t love (Tatooed New York, Inscape, Intermittent Fasting) but I was still glad I did them.

Did I change the set point of my existence? I think so!  I hope so! My life does feel bigger.  I always have something to talk about when people ask me what I do outside of work which means I have to keep doing stuff because saying “last year I did a lot of cool stuff” will not fly for long!!

I wasn’t thinking about anyone else but myself when I did this, but I ended up with a tribe of people following and cheering me on, which was awesome.

One of my dreams is to be wise and inspirational enough to sit across from Oprah on Super Soul Sunday and say really important stuff that helps people live better lives.  (I realize that is a BIG stretch goal.)  What did happen this year, was that people seemed to be very inspired by my 100 things and some even said they would incorporate in to their lives too!!  Maybe I changed lives without Oprah! (I am sure she would dig that.)

Looking back on how this year unfolded –  what I chose to do, what I didn’t do, what I enjoyed, and what I didn’t – has helped me get more clarity on where to steer my ship next. For 2018, I want to focus on quality over quantity and really hone in on activities that will enrich my life.  More on that to come….

Net net, 100 New Things in 2017 was definitely a huge success…and there is still one more to go!

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