When I was a preschooler, I watched a TV show called Romper Room.
I recently had an appointment in a nearby city and had just enough time for the 2-hour drive. Because I wasn’t starting from home, I plugged in Google maps to insure the quickest route out of town. I had been driving for about 10 minutes when Google maps instructed me to take a highway I was unfamiliar with. I immediately disregarded the instructions and turned off the app. I have driven to this city a bazillion times and never take that highway, I reasoned. The traffic slowed to a stop and so I reconsidered Google maps. Switching it back on, I was directed to get off in 2 more exits. The cars plodded along and I grew exasperated by the traffic. As I finally approached the designated exit, I could see the cars ahead picking up speed. I concluded that the presumed accident was cleared and for the second time, ignored the advice to exit and switched off the app. I stuck with the road I was familiar with. Two minutes later I was mired in traffic again. A yellow sign flashed on the side of the road warning of an accident ahead. I turned on my app one more time and surrendered: I would take whatever route it told me to.
Now I might be more obstinate than some, but aren’t we all guilty of clinging to the familiar even when all signs are telling us it’s time to change? When it’s clear these actions or choices aren’t serving us well? We want things to be better and yet, we don’t want to disrupt our current life. We tightly hold on to what we know because it’s familiar and comfortable. Perhaps, it’s an unhealthy relationship, a dead end job or even the same old exercise routine. We get stuck in situations that are not ideal and we do the same thing over and over again and wish things could be different.
The detour took me to the middle of nowhere. Annoyed and afraid of getting lost in a remote area, I found myself getting more irritated and doubtful with each instruction to turn. When I realized my resistance only increased my aggravation, I decided to try to accept the new route. I willed myself to welcome the present moment and be open to whatever lay ahead. Suddenly, I saw the terrain around me as if for the first time. Bright green, freshly cut grass blanketed the rolling hills. Small hints of spring were evident in the budding trees and early blooming flowers surrounding a quaint little pond. I felt my tension slip away as I let myself immerse into the idyllic scene before me. This “new” way was getting me to my desired destination and it was also absolutely beautiful.
The total detour took about 5 minutes of my time but had a significant impact. It affirmed a simple truth. Taking a new route and breaking away from the familiar is not always easy. Like behavior change, it can be disconcerting, awkward and even disruptive. A new approach requires an awakening of consciousness. It is an invitation to make mindful choices that disrupt the status quo and usually requires giving up an old way of doing something.
In my recent blog, Follow Your Own Path, I wrote about taking your own path and not trying to live the life of another. As you find your own way, bring your adventurous spirit to try something new. It doesn’t have to be a life long commitment. It is a curiosity of what might be, an openness to explore and willingness to experience things a little differently.
When I was a young child, I wanted to be just like my Mom. I was mesmerized by her beauty- her salon styled hair, red lipstick and perfectly manicured nails- and transfixed by her talents- the various inflections in her voice she used while reading aloud, her artistic ability that helped make school projects come alive and the way she made each one of us feel special and important. To me, my Mom was the ideal woman and I wanted to be just like her when I grew up.
We’ve decided it’s time to make a change in some area of our life. It’s something we have considered for quite some time and have reached the point when the benefits of change outweigh any reasons to keep doing a particular behavior. We’re nervous about this new habit and at the same time, we’re motivated- even excited- about what’s to come.