I walk regularly through my neighborhood. Not daily. Not at exactly the same time. Not the same route every time, but regularly enough where I find I need to shake up my routine.

Walking is one of those things that our bodies have made so automatic that we don’t usually have to think about it. Since I don’t have to use my brain for walking (hooray!), I typically use my walking time to think or listen to music or a podcast. But I also make it a point to change it up sometimes. 

I’m a naturally fast walker, so sometimes I purposely try to walk slowly. I intentionally notice and appreciate new things on my slow strolls. Sometimes, I try to walk faster than normal, which gets me more focused on how I’m moving and using my muscles. Sometimes I focus on my posture and I am usually surprised to discover that I’ve been spending my day a bit slouchy (I blame it on my abs-of-less-than-steel! Probably not a best seller in the fitness video genre… Moving on!).

All the different approaches to the same task of walking help me learn new things about myself. I can appreciate that my natural style (fast, efficient walking) sometimes needs to be adjusted, like when I walk with my 94-year-old uncle. He’s actually pretty spry for his age and I’ll admit I had a higher than average step count the last time he visited us! I also need to change up my natural style when I walk with my kids because they are infinitely curious and constantly stopping to investigate things. Just as I change it up when I’m chatting with a friend on a walk, where the discussion is more the point than the physical activity.

The same is true in our work. Each of us completes many tasks each day without thinking too hard about them. What routine tasks do you need to try with a new approach? If you normally spend hours crafting the perfect email, try setting a timer on your phone for 10 minutes and click send when it goes off. If you normally lead discussion or are the largest contributor in meetings, try listening for an hour (which will feel roughly like eternity!) instead and see what you learn.

The first time you shake up your routine, it’s going to feel strange and challenging and possibly uncomfortable. Pay attention to those feelings and then reflect on why that might be the case.

There are so many dimensions that make up our authentic selves and many of them we don’t think about because they are innate. Deliberately doing something differently can help you understand yourself more, learn a better approach, gain empathy for other’s perspectives, and open your eyes to a world around you that you’ve been missing.

You may not choose to keep the change long-term and that’s OK. It’s about learning and growing while expanding the edges of your comfort zone. What routine thing can you shake up this week?

Image by Chiemsee2016 from Pixabay

Are you feeling bored at work? Stuck doing the same tasks over and over without feeling like you’re making progress? Mindlessly following the same dull routines? It’s time to try something new. 

I’m not saying you need to start looking for a new job – there’s a lot of factors that go into that decision – but you absolutely need to get out of the rut you’re in. And here’s the great news if you’re not enjoying your job: the something new should be something completely unrelated to your day job.

In fact, the more unrelated it is to something you already know, the better!

That’s because our brains are infinitely complex. Science has only started to scratch the surface on understanding that complexity, but here’s the rationale: the new thing you try wakes your brain up by creating new neural pathways. So learning something new literally creates new connections in your brain, activating it in a way it hasn’t been before. Regardless of age, humans have the capacity to grow more pathways. How fantastic is that? New and improved go hand in hand!

In my own life, I work to keep learning a priority. This year, I made a commitment to try one new thing a month. It doesn’t take a ton of time, but it does take a little planning to make sure that a month doesn’t go by without scheduling something! I know that everyone is already overscheduled and overworked, which is why it’s especially important to have something on the calendar you actually WANT to do vs. all those have-to-do items.

Try to pick something that sounds interesting to you, or is on your bucket list of things to try “someday”. I don’t typically have a plan before the month starts on what type of activity I’m going to try. It depends on what’s being offered, what my schedule looks like, and how much time I can carve out. Sometimes, it’s an excursion to a museum sans my interrupting cows… aka alone. Sometimes it’s a free or low cost class. 

This month I tried a painting class at a library where the supplies were provided so all I had to do was show up. One month I watched a documentary and participated in a group discussion afterwards. Another month I went on a naturalist-led hike. There are endless possibilities to choose from, but know that you can’t choose incorrectly. Anything new will work. You don’t have to fall in love with a new hobby in order to reap the benefits from creating new neural pathways in your brain.

Here’s what I love about trying something new. When my brain wakes up, all of me wakes up. I end up living life more fully and authentically because I’m not on autopilot. It also helps jumpstart my creativity. Taking a break to try the unrelated new things often leads to breakthrough ideas of how to solve some of my tough work problems. Most importantly, trying something new is fun (once you get past the fear getting outside your comfort zone). I’ve met cool people, learned fascinating things, and said yes to a wide variety of activities as a result. And if we’re being honest, most of us need a little more fun in our lives!

If you’re looking for a way to make your current job more interesting and exciting, trying something new is a great way to get unstuck. Pick one thing and get started!

 

I love the end of the school year. Everything seems imbued with hope, just like the latest class of funny-hat-wearing graduates to cross the stage. They all have big plans and outsized dreams.

Eventually, we wake up when we’re 30… 40… 50… 60 (sidebar: isn’t it funny how we only seem to do major self reflection on round number birthdays? No one freaks out that they’re 43 and 5 months old and haven’t done anything with their life yet! I digress…) So we wake up and suddenly the path we’re on is nothing like the one we hatched as a hope-filled grad. 

We all face disappointments and setbacks in work and life, most of which we wouldn’t choose for ourselves, at least when they’re happening. Being laid off from your dream job. Watching your company go out of business overnight. Losing someone you care about. The details change for each of us, but the challenges are similar.

This quote from writer Sarah Ban Breathnach sums it up nicely. “…success in life is not how well we execute Plan A; it’s how smoothly we cope with Plan B.”

Coping smoothly when life smacks you in the face is tough, especially when you’ve been working on Plan A for a while. But coping is a whole lot more effective than complaining and wishing for the past. Acknowledging and accepting where you’re at is the only thing that allows you to develop a plan to move forward. It’s not the original path you charted, but it’s the path you’re on now.

As the wise and delightfully eccentric Doc Brown says in Back to the Future, “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!” It’s time to figure out Plan B (or C or D or Z!), with or without roads! 

If you need help figuring out what direction to head, you are welcome to reach out to me.

 

Do you have a big dream or maybe a tiny nugget of an idea inside your head that you hope will happen someday? Great! Hope is an amazing tool in many instances. But it doesn’t make dreams and ideas happen. Action does.

In the book, Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World by Brooke McAlary, she spends some time exploring the idea of imperfect action. Rather than waiting for the exact perfect conditions to do the thing you’ve been waiting to do or hoping to have unfold, instead identify the action you can take now, albeit imperfect, to move you toward what you want.

Is there something at work you’re hoping will change? Identify one action you can take to make that change happen. Is your dream to write a book? How many sentences (or words!) have you written to get you closer to that goal? Do you want a new job? Start thinking strategically about what steps you need to take to get to where you want to go. Wishing and hoping isn’t a strategy.

I encourage all of my clients to start taking actionable steps toward whatever it is they are targeting. It’s easy for all of us, myself included, to come up with excuses and reasons why we can’t or shouldn’t get started. That means we usually put off doing those steps that could help us get to where we want. Then we end up struggling with why the change we seek is taking so long or give up entirely because it feels like we’re not making progress.

As a recovering perfectionist, I completely understand. It’s hard to push forward when it’s not perfect timing, or perfectly worded, or perfectly planned out. But there’s at least one thing you can do to move forward (arguably, there are many, but start with one!). 

There’s a saying, sometimes attributed to Chinese proverb, that says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

You don’t need to wait for the timing to be perfect; you just need to pick one thing and move forward imperfectly.  Start starting already!

Butterflies. Stage fright. Game day. First day of school. There’s lots of ways to describe that tingling feeling in your stomach before you do something for the first time. Some people relish this feeling and others avoid it at all costs.

American author F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “For what it’s worth… it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over again.”

Here’s the really exciting part… even if you decide to change careers to a new industry or type of work, you’re not technically starting over again, as Fitzgerald referenced. You have TONS of great experience that you’re bringing with you. 

I don’t know about you, but I for one am very glad I’m a different person now than I was in my 20’s! I’ve had the opportunity to work for many different companies and leaders. It’s given me time to reflect on and develop into the type of leader I want to be in my professional and personal life. I’ve learned many valuable lessons and skills and those travel with me wherever I choose to go and whatever I choose to do. And the same is true for you! 

There will be many new things to learn, sure. But there are also many more things you already know. When you’re starting over, it’s easy to freak out! Sometimes, just reminding yourself of all the simple stuff you know how to do can help (sounds weird, but try it!). You’ve been to meetings, you’ve worked at other companies, you know how to interact with co-workers, and you know how to figure out how things really get done. See! It wasn’t so weird. Now don’t you feel better? 

Are you ready to start over? Maybe you aren’t sure you’re ready, but your company has decided it for you through a layoff. Regardless, seemingly big leaps are actually made up of a whole lot of small steps. And remember, you’re bringing all that amazing knowledge and experience with you! 

If you need help figuring out what your next steps are, reach out to me.