One of my clients (I’ll call her Mary) was ready to tear her hair out. Well, not literally, but she was so fed up with the sameness of her life (which looked pretty nice, on the surface of it) that she found herself by turns agitated, bored, impatient, depressed and hungry for something new and different to come into her life.
Mary told me her life had gotten so predictable, she felt like she was going crazy. At first, she thought she was just being judgmental or ungrateful and couldn’t figure out why she was so critical of her friends and her family and her social life. As we talked, and I asked Mary more about what she really wanted in her life and what she actually had, she admitted she was living her life the way you’d paint one of those paint-by-numbers paintings. Stay within the lines, paint with safe, predictable colors, don’t do anything that would make things different.
Mary felt she was close to living the kind of life that Thoreau described as”quiet desperation.” She was climbing the walls of her emotional life: she saw the same people (very nice people), went to the same places, ate the same kind of food, wore the same kinds of clothes and watched the same TV shows. Is this really the way life was meant to be lived? Well, Mary was done with it and and wanted to feel alive again. Maybe even have an inspired idea or two.
Here’s what we explored together. Doing the same things over and over again prevents us from having new experiences because life becomes dull and life-less. When we’re always doing the same things, we’re always having the same thoughts going down the same neural pathways, triggering the same predictable feelings that trigger the same physiological reactions. Nothing new gets in. We think we’ve created a routine that’s efficient and comfortable and under control, but what actually happens is that we’ve sacrificed the quality of our life and severely limited the range of our experience. We see and do only what our habits allow us to see and do.
I’m interested in living a life of inspiration - and knowing what it is, where it comes from, and how we invite it into our lives. That spark of inspiration needs some open inside us. And if we don’t make room for it, inspiration will think it hasn’t been invited, and will look for somewhere else where the lamps are lit and the door is open.
So what about you? Are you open to inviting something new and fun and unpredictable into your everyday routine? I’m not suggesting you leave everything behind and walk the Pacific Rim. I’m not suggesting you go to any extremes that might involve bungee jumping or walking a tightrope between two skyscrapers. What I would suggest is something simple. So simple, in fact, you might not think it would have any effect at all. But it does. I guarantee it. Want to know what it is?
Change your routine for just two days.
How? Take a look at what it is you do in any given day and see where your habits are: which side of the bed do you sleep on? Do you always use the same hand to brush your teeth, comb your hair, hold the soap in the shower, write your to-do list? Do you always have the same thing for breakfast? Take the same route to work, read the same newspapers or magazines? Watch the same TV shows? listen to the same kind of music? If you notice that you’re living your life the same way pretty much every day, you might also see how the Universe can’t bring much that’s new into your life unless you shake things up a bit.
If the idea of making a change - small or large, depending on your degree of frustration or sheer boredom - feels like a breath of fresh air, be a scientist for 48 hours and see your life as one big experiment. Make a list of all the things you do in a day and do at least one of them differently, or at a different time of day, or not at all. Choose from all those things that seem to make life easier, or safer or more efficient and then, let ‘er rip. Mary started by reaching for something other than her favorite mug in the morning, and what she found surprised her enough to want to make room in other areas of in her life where the unknown, and maybe even the inspirational, could visit. And they did, much to Mary’s delight.
Once you start making space for what’s different and fresh to show up, you’ll make some very interesting discoveries about yourself. I’d suggest keeping a little journal or at least take notes on your 48-hour science project, the way any good scientist would.
After you’ve opened your doors to something beyond habit and routine, and measured your before and after state of mind, I’d love if it you would share what you’ve discovered with me. I’m collecting the data for our inspirational databank. The more we can share our experiences, the more we can help one another to live fully, love bravely and find joy in unexpected places. Find me here.