Do you ever feel like your life resembles the small, furry, rodent running on the spinning wheel of life; ever so busy, but never really going anywhere? Most people are involved in this sort of monotony, day in and day out without ever really noticing. Chances are you have become an expert in zoning out those 37 minutes that it takes you to subconsciously navigate the exact same route to and from work.
You remember getting in the car and you know when you have arrived, but you have no idea what happened in between. You most likely eat the same three foods for breakfast and your routine to get ready in the morning has been the same for more than a decade. You go to the same restaurants, hang out with the same friends (some of which you don’t even like anymore) and you shop at the same three or four stores.
Think about it: according to Robin Sharma the average individual has 60,000 thoughts run through their head in a day, and 94 percent are the same thoughts you had the day before. Most of us have reached a point where our lives follow a certain routine. We are stuck in a rut. We have become those cars for kids at amusement parks that never leave the rail in order to stay “safe.” The “staying safe rail” likely wasn’t a conscious choice, it seems we just arrived there.
Why? We like ruts because they give us security, they are comfortable and we don’t have to think as hard when making a decision. These ruts don’t always serve our best interest when it comes to life happiness and career fulfillment because they limit who we are as an individual and who we can become. Ruts limit the different experiences and opportunities we may have in life all because we chose to be on automatic pilot. They hinder you from living a larger life. Sure, you may drive without the safety rail at the amusement park, and you could likely veer off track with the possibility of crashing into the cotton candy stand, but at the end of the day, you’d have a better story than just cruising around the guided track. Leaving the rail every now and then introduces a bit of risk, fun, and adventure which ultimately adds to your collective “life story.”
Patty taught me this lesson in a profound way.
After a presentation to a group of lawyers about change and work fulfillment in their careers, a very distinguished woman in her 50s approached me. Obviously a very successful lawyer, she thanked me for my presentation and then shared that she had been on auto pilot for the last decade and it was time to make some changes. When I asked what those changes were going to be, she replied, “I am going to learn the Argentinian Tango and my husband is going to learn with me.” I could picture her husband being overjoyed when learning that he was going to be taking dance lessons. I asked Patty to follow up with me on the result.
A few weeks into the lessons, Patty and her husband were beginning to enjoy them. Although learning the dance was difficult, they found the activity in the evening enjoyable and the time together well spent. A few months later the tone of her communication changed dramatically.
“We LOVE the dance lessons,” she wrote. “We have met many new people, we are exercising, we enjoy the time we spend together and we are now going to dance lessons twice a week. We are planning some dance trips with our new friends. It is amazing how one small change has enlarged our circle of friends, increased the time my husband and I spend together and overall we are happier!”
Too good to be true? Actually, it isn’t.
When you pause for a moment, decide to hop the car off of the “safety rail,” and think about something that you would like to learn or participate in; it causes you to pull out of autopilot and move into pondering your life and what you want that ultimate “life story” to look like. Too busy you say for such frivolity? You can find an hour or two a week to spend on something that excites you and makes your life bigger than it currently is.
Breaking the monotony mold will change who you are as a person because you are having different experiences with different people. Experiences enlarge your existence So turn off the autopilot and try something new, you might be surprised with the effect it has on your life. Remember, it is your career and your life.
• A consultant, author, PhD, triathlete, father, and resident of Gilbert, Dr. CK Bray is a career and organizational development expert who has worked with numerous organizations – ranging from Fortune 500 companies to emerging start-ups. He can be reached at ck@DrCKBray.com or find his blog and more at www.DrCKBray.com.