This post is inspired by two events. The first was a conversation with my dear friend Francine who asked me two questions:
When is the last time your were amazed or truly excited by something? When is the last time you tried something totally new?
By trying something new, she wasn’t referring to those big, bucket-list type activities like traveling the world or jumping out of a plane, but little routine-shaking activities like taking a different route while walking to the grocery store. The idea being that by shaking up your patterns just a little bit you become more aware of just what your patterns are and simultaneously become more open to new experiences.
The second event that inspired this post happened today: the shift key on the left-hand side of my keyboard got stuck, forcing me to use the shift key on the right-hand side instead. Suddenly this seemingly insignificant part of my life has become incredibly significant and I am hyper-aware of this one tiny part of my life. Who would have thought that the finger so used to reaching over to hit the return key would be so bad at reaching one key lower to hit the shift key? Those other little surrounding fingers, too, they have grown accustom to reaching and bending in certain ways, and when the pinky gets pulled out of line, they all seem to follow suite! I also had no idea how many times the shift key is actually necessary to write (for example) a blog post?
We humans, it turns out, are incredible creatures of habit. Studies tracking peoples movements with GPS devices have shown that most people follow incredibly predictable patterns every week, taking the same paths between work and home and going to the same places whenever they go out. They’ve even found that our grocery shopping habits are totally identifiable: we tend to buy the exact same groceries in the same predictable pattern.
All this is fine, patterns, routines, and habits can be great! They give our lives security and let us know what to expect. Cognitively we do much better when we already know what to expect from a situation.
So what’s the point in shaking up the routine, then? It’s about self-awareness. Patterns are wonderful, but don’t you want to know what yours is, and what might happen if you break it?
So try something different today! Drink a different kind of tea in the morning, take a new route to work, use the shift key on the other side of your keyboard, or even just sit cross-legged with the “wrong” leg on top (try it, you’ll know what I’m talking about). See what happens. Maybe nothing, but you never know!