“Within the next year, I’m going to do 60 things I’ve never done before.”

That’s what a friend of mine decided on her 60th birthday, which was a few months ago. Whenever she does something she’s never done before, she writes it down on a slip of paper and deposits it in a special jar she keeps for this purpose. Her goal is to have 60 new experiences by her next birthday.

She told me about this after reading one of my recent columns, which had to do with women at roughly the same age and stage in life – and several women in particular who were turning 60 in the coming year – who were involved in amazing, exciting, and physically demanding events and adventures.

“It doesn’t have to be anything exotic,” my friend said as she told me about some of the new things she’s tried so far. “It can be sampling a new food or doing something in a different way than you’ve always done it before.”

Because of her birthday resolution, she now knows what okra tastes like, and how it feels to brush her teeth using her left hand, instead of her right, to hold her toothbrush. She has done yoga at the base of a volcano, and by the time she turns 61 she may know what it feels like to go zip-lining, to reach the top of a climbing wall, and to hike down the Grand Canyon.

I love the idea of exploring and embracing new experiences, and I’m sure that the challenge of trying to come up with 60 different ones within the course of a year would be an adventure in itself for any of us. It would also liven up our daily routines, and would probably bring about actual changes in the way we think.

I often read about studies that explore how the brain works – in the hopes of discovering ways to keep it strong and healthy as we get older – and about different activities that actually rewire our brains, in helpful or harmful ways. Exercise is as important for the brain as it is for the body, and my friend is certainly exercising hers.

In the coaching I do, one of the sessions involves spending a week exploring or learning more about things that you’d like to try or that you’ve always been interested in. It also involves simply paying attention to your normal activities during the course of a week, and analyzing your level of enjoyment and interest. The purpose is to discover and better understand what it is that motivates you, that energizes you, and that nourishes your soul. When you get a stronger sense of what gives you satisfaction, fulfillment, and a sense of accomplishment, you often experience subtle or profound shifts in the way you think, and in the way you live your life.

I’m sure that’s happening to my friend during her quest to collect 60 new experiences by her 61st birthday. Along the way, she’s developing a new sense of adventure and curiosity. A new sense of wonder in everyday life and the world around her. And a new sense of courage and confidence as she takes on challenges large and small, and as she actively seeks out and embraces new experiences instead of shying away from them.

I think she’ll also find an enormous sense of satisfaction and accomplishment from her discipline and determination. As she celebrates her next birthday, I’m sure she’ll realize that the gift she gave herself at 60 was the best gift of her life.

I’m planning to follow her example starting on my next birthday, which is just a month away. I’ll be 61, though, so I’ll have to add one more activity or discovery to the 60 my friend is shooting for.

Feel free to join us, no matter when your next birthday is or what age you’ll be. And whether you spend the time sampling new foods, exploring new places, or trying out new ideas, a whole new world will open up to you, with life in the following year turning into an exciting new adventure of discovery and delight.  And that’s certainly something to celebrate.

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on May 15, 2014.
©Betty Liedtke, 2014

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