Episode 144 The Power of Novelty
Bored? Been doing a lot of the same things lately? Talking to a lot of the same people? Dealing with the same old problems?
Have you ever watched a movie or read a book where every day was exactly the same? The reason there is only one movie like this – Groundhog Day – is because it’s a reallllly boring story. We, humans, have active minds and novelty, freshness, bright and flashy squirrels grab our attention. Today’s podcast is about the richness of bringing novelty into your story.
We all have ways of doing things. We all have things that work for us.
I like my flavor of tea, I like to drive my Subaru, I like my house clean, I prefer my ripped jeans, and if I had my druthers I would wear high heels maybe only 5 times a year. I have my favorite Burt’s Bees lip color. And frankly, it’s taken me a lifetime to get all my favorites pinned down. I’m not saying get rid of the good stuff. But I am opening a discussion about bringing a little va-voom into your love life, into your family relationships, into your exercise routine, into your career….where could your life use some novelty? Let’s shake it up.
Cambridge Dictionary defines novelty as the quality of being new and unusual.
Have you ever been in a place where someone did something completely unexpected? They busted out a dance move, or started singing at the top of their lungs, or threw you over their shoulder. What about the dance mobs that show up in a shopping center or the giant bouquet of balloons someone sent you at work? These things are unexpected and they are fun, interesting and memorable.
Let me start with a question for you – which part of your life is a little flat? I have a rather easy solution for you. Just requires a little thought, maybe just some spontaneity.
The solution is novelty.
Today’s discussion is going to be short, sweet and to the point – just a reminder to add some spice and keep things interesting. I’ll keep it short so you have more time to figure out the fresh, new thing you’re going to add to your life story today.
Research into brain health and longevity suggests that regular experiences of novelty are essential to a long, happy life. Why is this?
It’s simple – according to Brain World Magazine, novelty makes us happy because a rush of dopamine accompanies fresh experiences of any kind. In one study published in the journal Neuron, participants were shown a set of pictures – mostly commonplace images like landscapes, faces, interiors, then randomly an “oddball” image was thrown in and when that happened the pleasure centers of the brain lit up resulting in that dopamine rush.
This programming has probably helped us seek learning and growth through the ages. The attraction to novelty motivates us to explore and adventure and this gives us more information for survival.
But how does it help us live better now? Is novelty important in our safe modern world? I’m going to suggest it’s exactly the same. Maybe we’re not exploring new lands or maybe we are, but what if something as ordinary as the survival of a relationship requires something a little new and fresh? Frankly, it’s impossible to thrive without novelty and understanding this about the human condition is a powerful tool to living better and creating better relationships at home, work, and in the world around us.
When you do the same thing all the time with the same person life becomes WAY too predictable, less fun, and sometimes just boring. Maybe the best thing for your love life or a relationship that’s getting a little dull is to shake it up. Do something you haven’t done before, or done for a while. Do something unexpected.
So here are some ideas for you:
I surveyed a dozen people about novelty ideas to spice up relationships. Aside from all the sexual remarks that popped out- which is also a great idea, other ideas included:
- Having each person write a list of 5 things they’d like to try or do and then taking turns doing the things on both lists. And, being a good sport about the other’s list, even if it wouldn’t be your first choice.
- Do something crazy together every day for a week. The level of crazy would depend on how much the couple already does things outside their comfort zone.
- One woman left a note on the kitchen table when her husband got home from work. It said, “Husband, welcome home. I’m hiding in the house with a Nerf gun, here is the other one… The loser cooks dinner tonight. May the odds be ever in your favor. Xo your wife.
- Don’t forget the fun in the mundane space of just getting things done.: Hike sports game, movie, amusement park, museum, bungee jumping… something you guys think is fun or something you haven’t done before to keep it novel.
- Take a class together that is fun and a little outside your comfort zone.
- Leave an unexpected note in an unexpected place.
- Create a treasure hunt for the other party.
- Maybe it’s as simple as offering to do something new and kind and unexpected for the other person every day for a week. I bet that becomes a memorable week.
Speaking of memory –
Learning, whether academic, job-related or personal all relies on novelty. New experiences stimulate the memory centers of the brain as well ,that’s why you remember the out-of-the-ordinary event that happened in high school, or the craziest date you ever went on, or the person who shoved a pie in their friend’s face, or the greeter at Walmart that sang you a beautiful song while you were at self-checkout, or hippies in the park having sex, or the streaker at the College basketball game, or the kid that takes his shirt off at the bowling tournament. These were real events that the people in my survey remembered…. This is also why good teachers and leaders are looking for new ways to approach otherwise mundane topics that are fraught with the known or expected. It’s the novelty that cements them in your memory. I’m preparing a public presentation for next month and I’m trying to think of something unexpected and novel I can do to get their attention and make it memorable….
So we have the dopamine – increased happiness. We have the memory centers that are stimulated by novelty – for retaining our experiences. But we also have motivation and engagement created by the dopamine. People cannot maintain interest in any topic for long if novelty is not present. We need dopamine to keep us motivated, or we’ll look for pleasure and interest in other places. This is a great thing to understand when you want or need to keep people or a person interested in a topic, a relationship, an idea. Novelty again is the key.
What about professionally?
Career success is also dependent on this. People become bored and unmotivated at work- that’s nothing new. We need new challenges. Creativity and innovation is practically impossible without novel experiences. Our brains are never challenged to consider new perspectives or to integrate new information without novelty. So, let’s bring it to work too.
One of the participants in my informal survey said that she controls the novelty of what she wears to work each day, so she keeps that interesting. Maybe it’s something that small.
As I close up I will end with the ever-popular Latin phrase Carpe Diem – Seize the day.
Your challenge today is to add some novelty – something unexpected and fun into your story. People who actively seek new experiences throughout life live happier, healthier lives. Translation – they live and create better stories.
What will you do today to make your story more unpredictable? Have fun creating your best life story.
Remember to head to www.loveyourstorypodcast.com for a link to buy my book LIFE Living Intentional and Fearless Every day. To pick up your LYS T-shirt, to sign up for story coaching or to tune into any of the over 130+ episodes available on just about any topic you can think of for living your best life story.
Thanks for being here.