Abandon Old Routines To Change Your World

Every year I try to give up something quite challenging for lent. It isn’t for religious reasons, but to try to challenge habits.

Someone pouring a coffee into a mug with the headline — Abandon Old Routines To Change Your World

Our routines are often cited as being important to our ability to be creative and innovative in many lifehacking blogs, but I’m not convinced.

There is logic in order, too much chaos can feel uncomfortable and disruptive to many folks, so having certain things in hand can help you feel you have more control of a situation. Control is an important feeling, which I’ll write about more in a future issue.

But our routines can also become so default that we have no idea that they’re optional, at which point we’re losing out.

There was a novella published in 1884 called Flatland, in which a square tries to convince one-dimensional lines that there is a second dimension, before being visited by a sphere who struggles to convince the square that there is a third dimension.

After floating above the second dimension to see it for himself, he is shot down by the sphere for proposing there could be a fourth dimension, and is finally sent to prison in Flatland for preaching the existence of the third dimension.

If you are still with me, I think this has a lot in common with our reliance on our first cup of coffee every morning.

I’ve met so many people who are so reliant on that pre-8am coffee that they couldn’t imagine not following that ritual. There’s a deep-set idea that they need it to kickstart their brain, and without it they’d just never get started.

What happens is that this ritual perpetuates. There’s never an opportunity to break it or try anything different, so it just becomes the truth to us.

What I found with lent is that it gives an excuse to try to change something, and that change helps to form new habits, rituals and experiences.

Once we realise we don’t need caffeine to wake up*, and that a glass of water is far more effective, we form a new relationship with coffee but more importantly to our reliance upon anything. We gain control and we see the two-dimensional reliance from a new perspective.

The same has happened in different ways with different things that you cut out, whether it’s alcohol and learning to celebrate success with new rituals (or even just realising how weird of an idea it is that you might need a beer or glass of wine after a tough week), giving up meat and learning to be more creative with alternatives, or giving up bread and realising how central bread is to our lunchtime routines — especially at conferences or events with a buffet.

Of course there is privilege attached to the ability to pick and choose, or exercise restraint, but that introduces other bigger ideas around our relationship with fear.

The more I’ve given up over the years the more I’ve realised I’m gaining through control and perspective. When the six weeks of lent are finished, you can go back to the way things were or you can approach the world with a slightly different approach, and design new habits.

There’s an activity that I kick off our Startup Club workshops with that I’ll talk about in a future post but which centres on seeing how much of our world has been sculpted by other human beings’ minds. Every now and then we need to take uncomfortable steps to see the second dimension for what it is and do what we can to change our deeply held beliefs.

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