“Change is the only constant”
Have you ever noticed how quickly you develop certain habits or routines and then experience resistance when you need to change them?
Take me for example. Since a couple of months I am staying in another town for work during the week. Already within a short period of time I developed a certain rhythm. Monday nights are for grocery shopping and settling into my cottage, Tuesday nights I am playing squash, Wednesday nights I am going to the movies and Thursday nights are usually for drinks or going out to dinner.
This routine has been built in a relatively short period of time but already now when my squash evening is cancelled or I have to skip the movies I observe that I feel slightly off balance. Do you recognize that feeling? Isn’t it funny how quickly these routines settle in?
With this example it is easy to imagine how difficult change is for people who have been building routines for (tens of) years. Although it may provide them with a (false) sense of security and certainty, the bad news is it dramatically reduces their ability to adapt to new circumstances. And with all the changes and crises that are going on nowadays you actually want to increase your ability to adapt and change, not reduce it.
What about you? How is your ability to deal with changing circumstances? Want to increase that ability? In that case I have 5 simple suggestions. Practice these for a month and I guarantee that you will have dramatically improved your ability to adapt to whatever comes your way. You may actually start to like change, as much as I do.
1. Change your morning wake up routine
Most people have a fixed routine the moment they wake up. They first get a cup of tea or coffee and some even like a cigarette, while reading the morning newspaper. Breakfast is always after they have taken a shower. Or, when they are the hurrying type, they immediately hop under the shower, get dressed, drink their breakfast, because it takes less time, and then leave for the office while grabbing a coffee at Starbucks during the commute.
You may have a variation of this routine, but probably a routine nonetheless. The first thing I invite you to consider is changing your morning ritual. Set the alarm for a different time. Take a bath instead of a shower. Prepare breakfast instead of drinking from a bottle. Get a cup of coffee instead of tea, or vice versa. Don’t read the newspaper. Try to create a new way of waking up every day for a month.
Now the trick is to do this consciously and observe how you feel and what your thoughts are. Do you feel resistance or a little awkward? Are you concerned that you will not be on time? Don’t judge what you feel or think, just observe and then smile to yourself because you know it is just a little game you are playing with yourself.
2. Change the way you commute
We all have a preferred route to the office. You are probably so familiar with it that you know exactly where you should be at what time, immediately recognizing that you are running late compared to your normal schedule.
I invite you to change the way you get to the office. Leave a little earlier than usual and make a detour using different roads. Take a train instead of the car. Use the subway instead of a bus, or hop on a bike to get to work.
Again, just observe your feelings and thoughts without judgment while changing your commute.
3. Change your routines at work
Most people start with a cup of coffee reading their email. They have fixed times and routines for their coffee, smoke or lunch breaks. Plenty of opportunity for change, right?
For example, change the time and way that you have lunch. Instead of visiting the company cafeteria, go outside and get yourself a sandwich while you walk down the park. Or, take out your lunch box, find yourself a nice little spot and enjoy eating lunch away from the desk.
Consider taking a longer break and walk for 30 minutes exploring the area around the office. I am always amazed how many people stay at the office, not knowing anything about the neighborhood. Or, if you always have lunch at the same sandwich bar, find another place each day and while you are at it, change your food as well.
Use your imagination and consciously introduce every day a new way or element and again observe your thoughts and feelings while doing so. Be on the lookout for any feelings of resistance. If you do feel resistance take a moment to reflect on it. Why do you feel that resistance? Are there any belief systems that limit you? Do you feel less secure or certain? Excellent, that is exactly what you want to bring to the surface. Embrace and acknowledge these feelings, then take a deep breath, smile and let go. It is just a game anyway, right?
4. Create a different evening experience
When we return from work we typically have routines as well. Dinner is served at the same time, everybody sitting at the same place at the dinner table. Sometimes people even have a fixed menu during the week.
Kids go to bed the same time. We watch the same show on TV and get to bed at more or less the same time during the week. Or, you hardly have time to eat because you have be on time for your training at the gym or the sports club.
By now you probably understand the drill. For example, change the way you have dinner. Don’t sit in front of the TV while snacking but go into the kitchen and prepare yourself a meal. Change your spot at the dinner table.
If you are a man and never prepared dinner yourself, because your wife always does, invite her to take it easy while you (try) to cook a meal. Remember, the objective is not to prepare a 3 Michelin star dinner, but just to change routines. It is not the result that counts but the experience you have. And, your wife may be be pleased, as well.
There are so many things you can change in your evening routines that I won’t mention them all. Consider it as a fun assignment, use your imagination and I am sure you will manage.
Now, besides observing your own feelings and thoughts, I also invite you to observe the response of the people around you. How do they react to the changes in your behavior?
Just observe and become conscious of what they say and how you feel about that. Do they criticize you? Do you make them feel less secure? Do they feel awkward and tell you to stop and return to “normal”?
Don’t judge, just observe. This is a good time to stand behind the short wall. How does their response make you feel? Remember to take a deep breath, smile and then let go.
5. Start with new activities
While you have been practicing and changing your daily routines, in the morning, at work and in the evening, you may also want to introduce some completely new activities into your life. Doesn’t matter how big or small, just something new
Start playing an instrument for example, like I did a couple of weeks ago when I bought myself a banjo. Take something up again that you perhaps always liked but had to discontinue, like some kind of sport like I did with playing squash again. Oh, or start writing a blog about changing routines:).
If you never went to a theatre, look for a show that feels like fun and buy yourself a ticket. Look for a museum that you never visited. Look in your local newspaper or on the Internet and select a couple of events that you like to attend in the next few weeks. Invite some friends over that you haven’t seen in a long time. Book yourself a weekend in another town or even abroad.
Again, the idea is to use your imagination and then to just observe your thoughts and feelings without judgment while considering and undertaking these new activities. Do you observe resistance to leave the familiar path? That’s perfectly okay. Don’t criticize, be gentle with yourself. Take small steps, one at the time. This is not a contest. No, it is about increasing your ability to change and adapt.
Keep a diary
While you are embarking on this journey of change, I recommend that you keep a diary to write down your experiences. It will help you become more conscious of the routines and beliefs that limit you, but also how often you initially felt resistance to change a certain routine only to discover that it provided you with a sense of satisfaction and freedom once you did change.
And please, never forget that this is supposed to be fun!
Finally, one more tip from my own experience: curiousity is always your biggest friend when you are confronted with change or start something new!
Enjoy and don’t hesitate to share your experiences with us.