I’ve been thinking lately, and that is a dangerous thing! Much of our life is on auto-pilot, much like getting in the shower to shampoo, rinse and repeat; the instructions on the side of our shampoo bottle. In all actuality, I only shampoo my hair once each time I shower, not twice, but alas I regress.
It is so easy to go through life doing the exact same thing we did the day before. I know that I get in a routine. I leave the house each day, vowing to make this day unlike any other day, but when I get to work, I see the exact same visual clues and I settle back into the same actions that I did the day before. Don’t get me wrong, many of these actions have proven very successful, but when the actions that you do are not giving you the intended results, then something has to change.
I believe that the reason that many of us do not veer off of our routine is due to comfort and fear. It is very comfortable to experience the same thing every day, even though it may not be healthy for us. We know the outcome, we don’t have to really put our mind in creative gear, we just put it in drive. Just like going to the gym, our muscles get used to the routine and stop developing. We are told by trainers, you have to switch up your routine or your muscles will not develop as they should. Our minds do the same thing, we stop growing as individuals when we go to that comfortable routine that isn’t delivering results any longer. The other reason I believe is fear. Doing anything new has some level of fear to it. Here I am writing this during my work day. Since I own the company, I should be able to be creative and write to my blog, right, but do I typically? The answer is no. I do not because I fear that if I don’t do the same thing that I did yesterday, my work results would change at the end of the day, and that is very uncomfortable. I can talk all I want about making changes, but do I really do it? Doing the same thing gives you consistent results, even when the results are not what you want, but hey, that are consistent. Doing something different or new makes us venture to that unknown land that takes us out of our comfort zone. God forbid that we might end up with superior results.
The same visual clues can also be a hindrance I believe. These are triggers. They cause us to repeat the same action the last time we were in that place. Why? I believe again it is comfort. Our brain associates an image with an action or thought process. It’s hard to stop thinking or doing something that has been ingrained in us. For instance, when I walk by my computer, instead of thinking of how can I write a really interesting story, I look over my work schedule, look at a profit and loss statement, look at our recent web rankings, look at my budget, check my email and any creative thought that would have been birthed has now vanished. You have to figure out what visual triggers cause you to fall into that trance that steals your life. Don’t get me wrong, many of our visual triggers are good, they get us moving and we get stuff done, but when you wake up with a purpose for the day, promising to brainstorm, don’t let the visual triggers side track you.
Purposeful living is hard. It’s much easier to simply repeat what you did the day before, in the exact same way that you did it yesterday. Also, being creative is hard as well. It’s much easier not to be creative. Creativity takes real effort. I don’t see being creative and routines as going hand in hand unless you call sitting still every day (the routine) to let God drop some really out of this world ideas into your head.
When I was a kid, my teachers used to tell my parents that I sat and daydreamed too much during class. I was guilty of this for sure, but I wasn’t daydreaming about the kind of cereal I ate that morning, I was dreaming of all kinds of inventions like space travel, underground cities and flying cars. I am also off the charts when it comes to dreaming each night. I joke about my multiple dreams per night, saying that I should have popcorn to go along with my dreams since many of them feel like cinematic experiences.
Somehow, the older we get, we seem to stop daydreaming or dreaming in general. We get into a routine that has proven to work for us. It pays the bills, keeps us out of prison and doesn’t cause people to hurl insults at us as we walk down the street. I guess you can say that we start to settle. What if our shampoo bottle said, “Shampoo, rinse, wait a couple of days, rinse, then shampoo and if you feel like it, shampoo some more.” Well, they wouldn’t sell as much shampoo and for those of us that like instructions, we would just melt into total confusion. Shampooing twice in one day does sell more shampoo, but for those of us that shampoo every day, that’s just too much shampoo in one’s life! Back to the analogy. Routines are not all that bad. For instance, I started playing cello two years ago. Unless I set up a routine to practice, I won’t get better. I know that for myself, I also have to set up a time that I practice each day, which for me is around 9PM each night. My teacher gives me different techniques to help me improve. I use these multiple exercises which are all different, yet I use the routine of my practice to perfect these. This “routine” works for me and gives me the desired result that I want in this area of my life. Exercising is another routine that I know is good for me. I need that routine to keep my body in good shape, but even with exercising, I choose different activities to keep my body from getting used to the same motions so that I can get a full workout.
One good routine that I have started to do is to take the first part of the day to write down 10 different ideas. (By the way, this isn’t my original idea, I borrowed this from James Altucher) These 10 ideas are not a to do list or a task list, they are ideas where I let my mind go wild. Some of them are great practical ideas and others are Buck Rogers type ideas.
When I write down many of these ideas, I think of how silly they are, but when I go back and read through many of the old ideas, they don’t look so silly. Anyway, who said when we grow up our ideas have to become all serious and boring? I don’t think that Elon Musk starts his day by thinking, “I just need to start thinking of some boring ideas and businesses that nobody will get excited about, but will guarantee that I will make loads of money.” Nah, I think that Elon Musk believes that the future doesn’t have to be as bleak as we are all signing up for. It doesn’t hurt to have investors and the financial backing to make your dreams a reality, but we can all dream. This is the thought behind the movie Tomorrowland, that I wrote about last year. The future can have some golden moments and opportunities if we will start to dream again. We don’t have to stop dreaming just because we are older than the age of 12.
I remember when I finished college. The biggest wake up call was that the summer season would take on a whole new meaning. When you are in school, you have the summers off, for the most part. This was a time of going on vacation with your family or finally inventing that really cool rocket part that you didn’t have time to do during the school year. When you finally finish going to school, every month is like the previous, shampoo, rinse and repeat. Maybe you get a week or two of vacation during the year, but for the most part, it’s groundhog day.
My wife and I recently read a book by Bob Goff called Love Does. Bob has these zany stories where he strives to live a life that has a good amount of whimsy in it. He is an attorney, but he does not let his vocation dictate how he lives his life. He allows ideas to pop into his head, then has the bollocks to act on them. Our home group read his book. Most of the people in our home church group are retired. This book really challenged many of them and made us think differently about how we should live each day.
I feel that each day is a gift from God. I don’t know about you, but when I receive a gift, I’m very thankful. I take time to write a thank you note to let the person who gave the gift know how much I appreciated the thought, and for remembering me. My thank you note to God is taking the time each day to allow Him to fill my mind with the vast possibilities of what this world was meant to be and for allowing me to be just a small part of that grand plan. Maybe someone one day will look back on one of my ideas and say, “Wow, that idea was bigger than Gill, he must have had someone help him with that one.” My answer would be, “You’re right, I don’t have that kind of imagination, but let me introduce you to the One whose imagination started this whole planet we live on!”