Last night, I couldn’t sleep due to a throbbing headache I couldn’t shake. My guess is that it came about because I had been going around in mental circles about a question related to my coaching business. As my family and friends can attest to, I’m an extreme “Type A” planner, and I have this stubborn tendency of subjecting myself to excess amounts of mental scenario planning that unsurprisingly can result in physical manifestations of this mental wrangling.
Typically when I get these headaches, I do one of two things: 1) take an ibuprofen or 2) do some aerobic exercise to get the blood flowing in my head. Both tend to help. On this particular occasion, I opted for the latter. I got myself out of bed bright and early on this Saturday morning, and decided to go for a long bike-ride through the streets of London at 6:30am, something I never do.
The next thing I knew, I was cycling briskly through the empty streets, listening to the most inspirational podcast I could find on my iPod that morning—the NPR Ted Talks Radio Hour, my gospel in life. I loved everything about that early morning. Filling my lungs with the fresh morning air. Hearing chirping birds awakening instead of the regular din of cars whizzing by. Being inspired by the discussion about the meaning of success I heard through my headphones.
I stopped by the local M&S grocery store to pick up some things on my way home. I typically shop when the post-work crowd is rushing to gather last minute necessities for dinner. On this early morning, a very different energy filled the air. I saw completely different people in the store on this Saturday morning, mostly elderly individuals quietly doing their shopping and chatting with the store staff. The shelves were fully restocked, all items perfectly aligned along the shelves. I noticed items I’d never seen before.
I was reminded of both the convenience of routines and the power of breaking routines. Entire books like “The Power of Habit” have been devoted to the topic of how routines and habits can make or break us. On the one hand, routines keep us on track, on schedule, on task in life, whether related to exercise, family life, careers, or productivity. They allow us to operate efficiently, almost subconsciously to complete our necessary, daily tasks. However, routines can also limit us. They can result in stagnation, robotic motions, and a task-focused approach to life.
That morning reminded me how much perspective I gain when I change my regular routines. How simply doing something at a different time of day can be refreshing. When I arrived back home that morning, my headache was gone, I had come up with a new idea for my coaching practice, and I even managed to pick up some cake mix to make some muffins and enjoy with my wife after she woke up.
So if you’re feeling quite stuck on something, whether related to your life, a relationship, your career, or your health, take a pivot from your regular routine. By simply tweaking when, how, or where you do something, you can begin to notice different things about yourself, about your surroundings that can be a source of inspiration for change. Take a different route to work. Listen to a different genre of music. Browse an aisle you never walk down at the grocery store. Exercise in the morning if you normally exercise in the evening. Work in a coffee shop if you work from home most days.
Suddenly doing things differently may feel awkward and may actually require more initial effort. However, trying out even a small change may just allow you to stumble upon something interesting related to the world around you or even yourself.