New Experiences vs. Saying “Enough”

I thought about the following while on a beautiful morning hike at the coastline in Bretagne (here’s a video of it I just uploaded):
What’s better: Experiencing lots of new things, or doing the things you love over and over?

There’s something to be said for both: Making new experiences pushes you out of your comfort zone, it can be fun and exciting, it challenges what you know. I’m pretty high in what psychologists call “openness to experience”, so trying out new stuff comes natural to me. But there are downsides to that openness: It can be hard to stick to a normal life because of fear of missing out, and you might always feel somewhat dissatisfied with what you have.

On the other hand, there’s something to be said for consistency and saying “enough”. We humans seem to have a problem with saying enough – it sounds so definitive, and we have to confront what we try to repress most: that our time on this earth is very finite and that we can only do so much.
It takes a good amount of maturity and self-knowledge to say “I’ve had enough of that, I don’t need to do that anymore”. You have to be honest with yourself and stop living life to impress others. I think it’s an essential part of growing up. In my case, I know I never have to go to a nightclub anymore, I don’t really enjoy those. I don’t want to travel to countries I’m not genuinely interested in for the sake of “checking the box”. I don’t need to learn another language, English, German and French are enough for me. I don’t enjoy reading “classic literature” that doesn’t captivate me. I don’t want to pretend like I love going to the theatre, the opera or museums with dark old paintings – I’ve been dragged to enough of those by my parents to know they don’t stimulate me emotionally or intellectually.

By the way, if you say “I don’t know what I like”, that’s a good indicator: What stimulates you emotionally or intellectually? You probably have that gut feeling that tells you “I dig this” or “not so much” (kind of like you can feel which songs you like and which you don’t). And you shouldn’t make a definite judgment if you’ve tried something once – maybe it was just the wrong place, or you were with the wrong people.
But for me, if I’ve done something repeatedly and the experience is the same: Ok, I’ve learned that I don’t like this. Maybe this will change with age too and I will start to love going to church then – who knows. But because my time on this earth is very limited, I have to rely on these heuristics for now.

It makes sense to view it in terms of life stages, too: I think when you’re young, say 18 to 35, it’s valuable to focus on making new experiences as you’ll still be figuring out who you are and what you like. When you’re older, you should have a better idea of what you like, and it makes sense to go on vacation to your favorite spots, eat your favorite foods whenever you can and play the sports you like most.

For this whole “learning what you like” thing to work, there’s an important precondition which I sometimes struggle with: you have to actually remember what you learned. Problem is, I forget those things quite often. For example, I noticed a few years ago that I start to feel discontent after about a week or so of leisure time if I don’t get to learn something new or do something productive. Well, I kind of forgot that and faced the same problem this vacation, and it started to make me discontent. But it was my fault: I should have learned the lesson and adapted my vacation accordingly by including days where I could be alone to read or write. If you’re similar to me, I’d encourage you to write down what you learned about yourself, especially about things you (unexpectedly) loved doing vs. things that were annoying and unpleasant.

The second thing I’d recommend is to only put things in the “I don’t need that” box if you’ve tried them. People who have strong opinions about things they know nothing about always irritate me.

For instance, I’ve always felt some aversion towards golf because of some of the people who play it (rich country club people yada yada), but I still want to try the sport because I feel I might like it. Same with sailing, and riding a really good racing bike or a motorbike.
And yeah, that even goes for having pets or having kids where I’m still a fence-sitter (the problem here is, obviously, those are very major decisions and you can’t really undo them).

For my own life, I’m looking forward to simplifying my life and reducing my options more and more:
I’m happy with having a few good friends, visiting a handful of countries I love over and over, and enjoying the hobbies I’m passionate about. But I’ll make sure to try new stuff from time to time, because I want to stay curious and keep learning about this world, and about myself.

😴 What might help you find calm

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