Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Do Things Differently

If I want things to be different, I must do things differently. The problem with habituation is that it is so comfortable, so familiar, that often it is also undetectable. We do things a certain way because "that is what works", or "that is how I always do it", or we don't even register the fact that we chose to do it or that there are alternatives. Of course for things like washing dishes, driving to work, or getting kids off to school having a routine is important if not imperative. However when we lose track of what we are doing out of habit - flipping on the TV, getting lost in yammering phone conversations, surfing the net - things that get in the way of our life goals, relationships, and creative energy, well then, it is time to Do Things Differently.

Pick one day this week to be your "Observation Day". Pick another day to be your "Do Things Differently Day". And then carve out an hour or so on a day off, presumably the weekend, when you can be alone to write and reflect about what happened.

"Observation Day" is to take note of what you do. Make a list of all of your activities. Write it out: wake up, shower, groom, eat, talk to spouse, radio, TV, drive, work, etc. Identify what you do automatically and how you do it. Observe yourself. Notice how you always (flick the lights on, then coffee, then the dogs go outside). Can you get down to the details?
Just watching yourself will bring a new level of awareness. Also note what makes you mad, happy, irritated, (rain, traffic, favorite song) particularly unexpected things and surprises.

Then, the night before your "Do Things Differently Day", review your list of observations. Pick a few favorites - the things that are really YOU. Begin to imagine doing those things differently. Have you ever written something with your opposite hand? for how long? all day? Can you see yourself taking a different route to or from work? Asking someone else to drive or taking the wheel yourself? Ordering a different morning coffee, or buying one for the person behind you in line? What would happen if...?

The "Do Things Differently Day" dawns and you realize that the universe provides infinite possibilities and instead of doing routine things the same way, today you will do them differently - just for fun. Even if it is less efficient. Even if those who see you as the sum of your habits start to question and even freak out when you show up wearing red, or with your hair slicked back, or you skip lunch to take a walk around the park. Don't over think it, although you can do things that are good for you, you can do things you've put off doing, just do things differently.

At the end of the "Do Things Differently Day", go over your list again and put a check next to things you did differently, put a smile next to those things you had some fun with, put a lightening bolt next to things that felt energizing, and make up your own symbol for any other trend you noticed.

When you can take some time to reflect, sit down at a time and place when you won't be interrupted. Take about an hour. Write about it and keep your hand moving. Even if you write "I don't know what else to write", another thought will arise regarding this experience. Notice what you resisted, what excuses you made for yourself to abandon the exercise, how you returned to it in fits and starts. Don't judge yourself, just observe. See what else comes up for you about what you did, how you did it, and the potential it brings to life.

If we want things to be different in our lives, we have to do things differently. Much of what happens in life is beyond our control - surrender to that. What is within our control, our own behavior and choices, is often given over to habit, numbed out by routine, and avoided due to fear - observe that. Even a small change of a seemingly insignificant task can have a profound effect on our psyche. Try it. Do Things Differently.

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