Your alarm goes off at 7:00 AM each morning. You grab your phone and scroll through emails, texts and Facebook, finally getting out of bed, going to the bathroom, and going into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee.
The same routine every single morning. In fact, your morning routine is so ingrained, you most likely don’t even give it a second thought. Day in day out, doing the same things in the same way.
We humans thrive on routines. We have them for almost everything — morning routines, lunchtime routines, evening routines, bedtime routines, even weekend routines. The predictability that accompanies a positive routine can be comforting and familiar.
So why change a routine? Because routines can get stultifying.
There are many positive upshots that come along with shaking things up and doing things differently.
Our specific daily routines work well for getting through day-to-day tasks without having to think too much about them. However, by switching up even little things – working in a different spot, mixing up your commute, taking a walk at lunch – you coax your brain into thinking more creatively.
The behavioral patterns we repeat most often are literally etched into our neural pathways.
Research has shown that breaking our patterns and changing our routine, builds new neuropathways in the brain. This allows us to perceive our world differently. Like putting on a different set of glasses through which to view life. Very cool!
Broadly speaking, any time you force yourself to make a change, you encourage your brain to make new neural connections, a process called neuroplasticity. In our daily routines, we can run on idle, but changing even one thing each day forces your brain to pay attention and learn what you're doing more carefully. The more “plastic” our brains become, the more creative connections we’re able to have.
Through exercising your brain’s neuroplasticity by trying new things we benefit in several important ways, including:
Better problem-solving ability
Conquering fear and building courage
Attaining a new level of self-knowledge
Changing things up gives us time and space to reevaluate what’s working well and what we would like to change. It gives us a new perspective that allows us to grow and learn.
Benedict Carey, author of How We Learn, explains, “Changing your work environment and daily movements — taking a different route to work, for example — can maximize the brain’s effectiveness, allowing you to retain more information and be more successful.”
Trying something new can also feel discombobulating though. This feeling of bafflement is the brain learning something new. This is actually a good thing. So relax into it with compassion for yourself.
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”– Lao Tzu
Trying new things brings an element of fear. There is a reason we fear change. Changes brings discomfort as we stray from the familiar into the unknown. And there’s the fear of failure that most of us deal with. We question ourselves with thoughts like “What if I fail?” “Can I do this?” “Will I look silly?” Failing, however, is not only to be expected, it's encouraged. Failure is a far better character builder than success and means we are putting ourselves out there and not settling for stagnation. While success propels us, failure will forge us into our true selves.
The familiar feels safe, but if you’re feeling stuck and wanting an opening in life, clarity about career, relationship, health, do something different. Change your routine a bit.
Try showering at night instead of in the morning. Take a walk before breakfast, instead of exercising after work. Eat breakfast for dinner. Bicycle to work. Sleep on the other side of the bed. It sounds simplistic but the resulting brain fluidity will create a new way of seeing things.
My commitment: One new thing every day. Today, I coached clients from my gorgeous back yard patio instead of my office. It was remarkable!
Try something new. Consider all the times you have thought “I wish I knew how to…” or “It would be fun to try…” Take a watercolor painting class, learn Chinese, join a writing group, learn to tango.
In the process, you’ll open your brain, build courage and learn what brings you joy. If like many of my clients, you feel a bit stuck and no longer know what you love to do or what brings you joy, it’s time to follow your curiosity and try something new. Start today.
I believe in you,
“When you leave familiar ground and step off alone to a new place, there will be, along with feelings of curiosity and excitement, a little nagging of dread. It is the ancient fear of the unknown, and it is your bond with the wilderness you are going into. What you are doing is exploring. You are understanding the first experience, not of the place, but of yourself in that place. It is the experience of our essential loneliness, for nobody can discover the world for anybody else. It is only after we have discovered it for ourselves that it becomes common ground, and a common bond, and we cease to be alone.”
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I would love to hear from you. What part of your routine are you ready to change? What new thing are you committed to trying?
Please share your comments below or email me directly at email@example.com