Wow! What an experience! A couple of months ago I decided I needed to make a change in my life. My tool of choice was the 30 day challenge.
A 30 day challenge is where you decide to try something new in your life. It could be anything from giving up a habit, to changing your diet to shifting your mindset. Anything.
Check out Matt Cutts blog http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/pick-30-day-challenge/ for some examples. Tim Ferris http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2009/01/07/the-power-of-less-leo-babauta-zen-habits/ has some good ideas, too.
What inspired me to commit to talking to at least one stranger every day for 30 days? As is typical, when my higher self needs my attention or has a lesson for me a lovely lady is often involved. The lesson must be pretty important because this woman is quite something. Physical beauty is nice and all but can only get you so far. She’s also smart, funny, sensitive, emotionally aware, etc…. After an encounter which involved a layer of permafrost forming in my brain I got the message. It was time to do something.
What was that something? Small steps are pretty important if I want to make changes in my life. Action of any size rules the day. In this case, I decided it was time to say hi to a stranger everyday for 30 days. Any further conversation was a bonus. The action was small and non-threatening for me. At the same time that small action could could open the door to bigger experiences.
How did it turn out? Well, first off, out of the 30 days there were two days I didn’t find a stranger. Unless, you count clerks and sales people at stores. Which I didn’t since they are paid to say hi.
Here’s what I learned:
- Not talking with strangers had become a habit. There was a time when I didn’t have any problem with conversation. Stress and not taking care of myself emotionally and physically had messed with my head causing me to pull back. Throw in an attractive woman and my talker would go into a coma. With repetition this became a default behavior.
- Missing a couple of days was a challenge to the perfectionist part of me! Flaws and imperfections are part of the beauty of this life. They aren’t always fun or comfortable but in the end they are part of the picture we are painting.
- After the first week, I realized I would have to venture forth. People are habitual creatures, like zebras they go to the same places at the same times to do the same things. Finding new people to meet often means breaking those patterns. Finding new social groups to tap into or new coffee shops to visit, for example.
- Everyone is waiting for everyone else to make the first gesture. Fear and insecurity are everywhere. Saying hi to a complete stranger in a public place opens a door. From what I’ve seen, the vast majority of people are thrilled if someone will open the door to a conversation. The exchange may be just a few words but it clearly makes people happy.
- In order to be consciously engaged and interested in someone else I needed to be accept myself. It’s enough to be as I am, right now. I thought I was there before starting the 30 days. Nope. Loving and accepting myself allows me to love accept others. The more fully I can do the former the deeper I can do the latter.
- Setting the intention to make a small change for a limited period of time allowed me to expand make a long lasting change in my life. And that change is leading to other shifts!
- Happiness has nothing to do with externals. Wealth, beauty, etc. we all know the list. Authentic happiness comes from inside. If we take care of ourselves by eating well, sleeping enough, exercising, challenging ourselves intellectually, being around people who love us and whom we love, and engaging with some spiritual aspect of life happiness shows up! And that happiness opens the door to sharing lovely conversations with strangers.
There you have it. Thirty days of saying hi to people I’ve never talked with before in my life. My next challenge? I’m not sure. I’m leaning towards developing a photographic memory. We’ll see! I’ll let you know here when I figure it out.