“I am such a creature of habit”, said one of the girls. Everyone affirmed agreement and sited ways this plays out in their life. One said, “I always sit in the same place at church”, and that comment alone got almost 100% agreement with stories of times someone they knew was offended when their place was taken. (church are you listening? this is a biggie if you want to grow)
“We always sit at the same place at the table”, someone else added. ”Always wear the pink scarf with the red dress”, “always eat lunch at 12:00 noon”, always, always, always.
And, yet, when we begin to live each day just like the one before, living the same day over again, we are missing the joy of life. Are we not?
When our lives become predictable in too many areas maybe it is time to give this “creature of habit” thing a rest! All of us want to continue learning throughout our lives. At least we say we do. We want to grow and keep our minds strong and creative. We don’t do that by boxing ourselves in. Research shows that the brain “loves” novelty. It likes it when different neuro-transmitters are firing, not so much when the same pathways turn into ruts. Learning spikes when something new is on the horizon, when the teacher does something different, when newness is part of our experience.
When I was a teacher I always enjoyed trying new strategies. If I didn’t, I soon got bored, and so did my students. One day I was cajoling a colleague to get out of her rut and try something different and she said, “Sandra, I like ruts!” And there is a place for that too. Structure is good. It provides a stable platform around which to build our daily activities. Routine is comfortable. We know what is coming next. As much as the brain likes novelty, it also thrives on routine, the well worn neural pathways in our brain. Neither extreme disorder and spontaneity nor extreme habit and routine serve us well.
As in most of life striking a balance is what we seek. Should we become too regimented….and we find ourselves doing “this” every Monday, and “this” every Tuesday, and sitting “here” on Sundays, and serving “this for dinner on Thursdays”, maybe we are just a tad out of balance. I challenge you to take a day, or even a week, whoa, and step out of some aspects of your routine. Choose a different seat for dinner, wear the purple scarf with the red skirt, drink lemonade instead of Coke. Just do if differently. And for heavens sake, please sit somewhere different at church!