Sometimes our lives are full of upheaval and we long for ‘same old, same old.’ But then when we get to a place where things are running along smoothly without any real challenge, there’s a risk we start to feel like hamsters in a wheel, going through the motions but without any real sense of purpose or excitement in our lives.
Each day feels like the day before and the one coming up. We wake at the same time each morning, eat the same food for breakfast and lunch, buy our wake-up coffee from the same café at 10.15am and read the same genre of books or watch the same TV programs night after night. We hang out with the same people and even our weekends tend to follow the same routine. Life becomes a series of things we do and actions we take without consciously choosing them. We live our lives by habit.
While no one can avoid a certain amount of routine, after all there’s usually only one viable way to get you to work on time each day, living every aspect of your life without consciously choosing, disempowers you and makes you feel trapped. When you stop choosing the little things, you give away your ability to create a meaningful life.
Habits are good when they free your mind and energy from thinking about unimportant things like which brand of toothpaste to use, so you can use your energy to deal with challenging situations or be creative in other ways. Habits are also good when they enable you to attain goals like losing weight or completing a creative endeavor like writing a book. Habits become a straitjacket when they are the default response to every decision we can make. When we do something because that’s what we’ve always done, we stop growing as a person and start shrinking instead.
Routine and habits allow us to live an easy uncomplicated life. We’re hard-wired to choose the safe option but always sticking with the familiar leaves us feeling bored and frustrated. Research shows that in order to thrive, you need challenges that help you grow, as much as you need safety and security.
Change and challenge make you feel alive. Think of the last time you had a holiday in a city where you didn’t understand the language. You can recall the highlights of each day, whereas when you’re consumed by daily routine back home, every day blurs into the next with nothing to remember.
Sometimes we cannot change the big things in our lives. We have to work Monday to Friday in jobs we don’t particularly like because they put food on the table and a roof over our heads. We cannot move somewhere new or take an exotic holiday in Latin America and to be honest, we mostly ‘re content and mostly like our lives. But if you want to create a life that memorable and meaningful, stretch yourself by trying or doing new things.
Start by becoming aware of all the daily choices you make out of habit. Take note of all the things you do today that you did in the same way yesterday and the day before that. You don’t have to change your whole life, but ask yourself what changes you could make in the following areas of your life:
Don’t focus on the outcome of the change you make. Perhaps you enjoy the Sri Lankan curry as much as you’d have enjoyed the steak or salad. So what. A memorable, meaningful life is full of experience rather than success or being comfortable. The more you expand your life in the little ways, the richer you’ll feel and as you expose yourself to new things, your tolerance for change will increase.
Every day you are faced with hundreds of choices. Don’t sell yourself short by not consciously making the choices you can make.
If you feel life is passing you by, change your routines, choose different options and it will change your life.
I’d love to hear what you think about making changes in your life. What little change will you make first and why?
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Image by allispossible.org.uk