All of us tend to get in a rut – maybe not a rut, but routine quietly begins to dominate our lives and we’re not even aware of it. It seems our brains – at least mine anyway, start efficiently processing tasks in an almost robotic manner rather than taking a ‘what if’ approach.
Today, the infomercial buzzword is ‘muscle confusion’ – constantly challenging our bodies in new ways so that we continue to see results. The same could be said, I think, for our brains. When we’re young – and I see this all the time with my kids – everything is new. Kids’ minds fire off all the time and they tend to learn at remarkable rates compared to when we’re older.
I’m not a neuroscientist, but I would guess that the more new stimulation we get, the better our brains do. I truly believe that at a certain point in our lives, we begin to move away from the ‘new experience’ mindset because we’ve amassed a body of knowledge that is enough to support us and our survival. Sadly, we then we tend to stay within those channels, admittedly in-part because we’re so damn busy. But I think that’s analogous to the muscle confusion example above, with the early part of one’s life experiencing the most new ‘routines’ to which they must adapt, and then once those are established, there seems to be a general plateau where there is considerably less growth.
This phenomenon applies to creativity, plasticity of thought and the ability to create new solutions and perceive from multiple viewpoints – a skill that is critical to my business – and likely yours on some level, regardless of what you do. You must try new things continually. It is not optional, unless you’re just into biding your time until you die. And no, this isn’t an old and unreachable saw, either.
Want to know how to do it? Here’s a personal example: This past winter I seemed to be in a comfortable ‘rut’ of sorts – and that’s likely the worst kind as it’s insidious: there’s nothing urgent to spur you to action. My workouts were the same as always (go to the gym – see no real gains or losses…), my off time was a templated routine of go home eat dinner put the kids to bed, spend some time with my lovely bride, edit manuscript, collapse into bed and my creative work-life was busy but unremarkable.
I didn’t realize that this was even a rut, albeit it a pleasant one. Like I said, it’s insidious.
Repeated viewings of of the Kettleworx informercial on Saturday mornings actually got the ball rolling. With the help of my rather perceptive, mentally elastic older daughter Olivia. Truth be told, we’ve been watching – and dissecting – informercials since she was an infant, identifying the triggers and charting the marketing flow – hey, I like my work, and it’s a good way to show kids how marketing works so they’re not just blindly pulled in by it.
So one day she said “Daddy, we always watch this one – why don’t you get it?”
And on a whim, I did.
And started it, and kept at it religiously (it’s tough – apparently I was in crappy shape – but it works).
So I left the gym, which gave me more hours in the day that I needed to fill.
So for whatever reason I decided that I wanted to learn guitar.
One new thing had worked out well, so why not another?
So I tried a lot of guitars (without knowing a single chord, mind you).
And finally settled on a ‘cheap’ Martin OOOX1
Which, driven by my increasing comfort with, and appreciation of trying New Things – and the neuron juicing effect it has – turned into a hobby.
Yes, a Hobby. Something that I hadn’t had since – not coincidentally – I was a kid. With that plastic, try-new-things brain.
Ten months later I’m taking guitar lessons, doing my kettlebell workouts 4-5 days a week and – finally – out of that comfortable rut. My brain is once again nimble and receptive. I’ve been reinvogorated. We’ve actually created a separate division for the development of new projects, because I’m flush with so many ideas. Finished the novel edits and started a new one. Looking at everything like it’s new – not like in past years when everything flew by so fast.
New ideas. Because I tried something New.
Try something New. Today. And keep at it – push through the initial resistance – I think that’s a key.
It’ll get you going again, and though where that may lead is uncertain, it’ll undoubtedly be interesting.
And have a resonant effect in every aspect of your life.
You might just feel like a (very wise) kid again.