For the most part, these responses have shown a wide range of changes which have turned you in a new direction--sometimes one that brought on a whole new set of challenges, but, obviously one that has also brought you great pleasure.
Some of my friends switched from playing melody almost all the time to now playing backup most of the time. I play harmony and counter-melody when it works out--and when I have others to play with, obviously!
I've played some on a baritone and on a chromatic (and on a chromatic baritone!) but need a lot more practice in that direction.
JohnP, I had a similar experience with the dulcimer--a "light bulb moment" when something clicked and I could suddenly play the dulcimer by ear, just as I did the piano and other instruments. Learning chords has helped me progress in that area, which is really where my heart is. If the song is in my head, I want it to show up at my fingertips!
Lisa, as you point out with that great story and the link to S. Smith's Blues for Mtn. Dulcimer, there are a lot of different genres that work very well on the mountain dulcimer. I've seen folks in nursing homes sleep through every genre played until you get to the one that resonates with them--suddenly they're awake, clapping their hands and singing. Some of us would feel tortured if we had to play classical music on the dulcimer--and others would be delighted! To each his own! My group in Tucson taught me to play the blues and they often perform St. Louis Blues, which is a real crowd-pleaser.
Experimenting with different strumming and fingering techniques can lead to something that really "clicks" for you, as with the bum-ditties, thumb-strumming, fingerpicking, etc. You just might find something that becomes a great new technique for you.
And, yes, finding a group--even a small one--to play with, helps immensely, as does having someone teach you how to play....or how to play better! I, too, enjoy going to workshops and festivals, not just for the fellowship and great jamming, but also for those workshops that cause you to stretch, bring you new insights, or take you into a whole new direction.
I'm enjoying the discussion and sharing of positive "game-changers" that you, personally have experienced.
Jan Potts, Lexington, KY
"Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." Henry Van Dyke