Albert Einstein famously said that insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Our brain is hardwired to automate and habituate thinking and action which is useful as e.g. learning how to brush our teeth every day would get in the way of having a life. Motivated by using energy efficiently this hardwiring cannot be deleted (imagine trying to unlearn how to brush your teeth!) which explains why it is so difficult to make changes and do something different instead.
However, to survive our fast-paced ever changing world, it is becoming even more important that we easily adapt and in essence be more flexible in our thinking, approach and action. I expect that you know people who at the extreme end of the scale, are prisoners of their minds (hardwiring) and even though they desperately want different results in their life they are unwilling to take responsibility and change what they are doing: they are stuck and rigid. Their energy is cloying and thick and when I sense their aura it tends to be black and spiky. They do not readily smile. Quick, run for the hills!
Rather than focusing on what they are not doing though, it is important that we apply this closer to home and serve as an inspiration. When was the last time that you were more flexible and changed something habitual? We think that we are always changing things however reality proves otherwise. Unless we make a conscious effort, we will be driven by our brain’s motorways of hardwiring habits and choices, rather than explore the country road where we are not sure where we will end up. However, the more flexible that we can be, the more we notice opportunities which builds or reinforces confidence. We can then tackle the big stuff using different approaches so that we will start to get different results. If we are persistent in taking the country roads, eventually they will become a motorway! Another benefit is the buzz that we get from the novelty of doing something different – this literally alters the neurochemical balance in your brain: arousal levels increase which raise motivation and this spills over into other areas of your life.
If this all sounds like hard work (I’ll forgive you, your brain wants to take the route that uses the least energy after all!) here are some ideas of unconscious habits that you could change:
Swap your broadsheet for a tabloid newspaper this week
Buy a different brand than your usual at the supermarket
Explore a new route home from work
If you buy a skinny latte at Megabucks every weekday morning, try a tea
Choose a different meal/drink from your ‘favourite’ when dining out… or ask a companion to order for you!
Deliberately take the opposite side of a political debate / argument
Host a meeting standing up rather than sitting down (expect it to take less time!)
Sit in a different chair/side of the sofa in your living room
Dress in a new colour or retrieve something from the back of your wardrobe that you have not worn for over a year and had forgotten was in there – and wear it.
Have a complete makeover (men, this is not just for the ladies, you can have fun doing this too!)
Rearrange the furniture in one room
Try out a new class (exercise, education etc – often you can experience tasters for free)
See a different film genre at the cinema (go extreme: if horror is more your thing, try a romantic comedy instead!)
Listen to a radio station playing music that you previously had derided
If predominantly extroverted test out being more introverted at your next social gathering
Change a habitual response to a question e.g. “I don’t mind” to “I want to do X…” or vice-versa
The brilliant aspect of being more flexible is that it stimulates a change in our thinking. To quote Albert Einstein again “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when creating them” so enjoy adopting a new perspective on current challenges.