OK, here’s the trick behind the click-bait title . . .
It’s true: sometimes all we need to do to shift our experience into a completely new feeling is to take one simple step.
BUT . . .
. . . Right from the beginning, I’ll admit that doing that one thing is not always so easy to do!
In my last post, I described how I recently experienced this phenomenon in my kitchen, where doing one simple thing made such an enormous and positive difference.
But, to do it, first I had to deal with my own resistance.
I recently had another experience where doing one simple thing produced big changes. I decided to break with my normal routine of jogging through neighborhood streets in favor of driving 10 minutes to a nearby park, and running in the woods.
When I got back I felt “exponentially more alive!”
And before today is over you can take the same step and I bet it will shift you too.
(Read to the bottom of this post for a special incentive to help get you started!)
What is this something I’m suggesting you do, you ask? Go running in the woods?
Maybe. But there are other options too.
Because the point wasn’t the woods (and if you already run in the woods all the time it doesn’t count).
The point is . . . Do something non-habitual!
Because, when you are in your habitual experience of the world, there tends to be very little surprise. It becomes tempting to feel like you don’t need to pay very close attention.
That’s not a very good formula for being totally present in the here and now.
On the other hand, when you do something non–habitual, everything that you normally count on goes out the window, and you are forced to wake up and be on your toes.
That’s a good thing!
When I ran in the woods instead of on my familiar sidewalks, suddenly I found I had to pay attention to every single step. This wasn’t the same kind of daydream experience I often have on my familiar neighborhood route!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of daydreaming.
But I think you’ll agree that it’s very different than being in present moment. And that’s the place you need to be when unexpected things happen in life – which, if you think about it, is all the time.
By deliberating putting yourself in less familiar situations, you call upon your body’s deep non-verbal intelligence to wake up and be ready to serve you in those moments when thinking is just too slow.
And if you carefully create your experiments with the non-habitual, you can include enough of that unpredictability to get your juices flowing, but also enough safety where you don’t ever have to go into panic mode . . .
While running in the woods, I needed to make frequent, quick, and spontaneous adjustments to stay on my feet. The attention and physical aliveness necessary to do this combined with my new surroundings seemed to generate new mental waves. As I ran, I had new creative ideas and insights that I know I never would have had otherwise.
The more you get used to flowing in this way, with mind and body both engaged and improvising together in a dynamic environment, the faster your feeling of being alive can shift.
(This is something my buddy Chandler Stevens might call an ecosomatic experience.
I’ll say more about that in an upcoming post – and also stay tuned for news about an ecosomatic weekend that we are cooking up together in the near future!)
If you see where this going, maybe you’d like to stop reading right now and just go out and do it?!
Why so soon, you ask?
Because no matter how many “good reasons” I give you, at some point, you just have to be willing to dive in. That’s way more important than anything else I say in the rest of this post!
(…except that if you do get to the bottom, I’m going to give you a little incentive if that’s what it takes!)
But wait, do . . . what again, you ask?
Anything – as long as it’s non-habitual!
. . . (WARNING: be prepared to face resistance!)
. . . (SUGGESTION: when you face resistance, ask it a question!)
- Drive somewhere you drive to all the time – but don’t take the same route and don’t take the GPS. Maybe don’t even take the car!
- Think of someone you love that has no idea how much you love them because you never tell them. Call them and tell them!
- Go eat at your favorite restaurant, but order something you never ordered before.
Does that sound simple enough?
The alternate route:
Hmm, sure, simple enough – except that if I get lost off my familiar route, I might be late.
. . . Well, what if you left yourself a little more time for the trip?
The phone call:
Yeah, ok, but then we might get into a conversation that I’m not prepared for.
. . . Alright. So, what could you do to be more prepared for that conversation?
Ordering a new dish:
Well, yes, technically I could do that, but my fav dish is SOOOOO good – I can’t bear to pass it up.
. . . What if you imagined that they ran out of your favorite dish? How would you feel about making a different choice then? What will actually go wrong if you don’t have your dish? And even if you regret it, how long will that feeling actually last?
– – –
Oh, I see – there’s that thing called resistance again!
That makes it a little harder to shift out of our habits doesn’t it?
But then again, do things shift – even a little – if you are willing to ask a simple question or two about why you resist doing something new?
Perhaps it would also help to think about the last moment you felt really alive:
Were you doing something that you do every day, that you always do in the same way? Or did that moment occur during some kind of break from your norm – a special event, a chance occurrence or a surprise?
If you wanted to increase the chance of having that kind of feeling again, do you think it might help to break out of your typical routine?
(Maybe you’ve heard of Einstein’s famous definition of insanity? “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”)
If you are trying something new that you are unsure about, would it help motivate you if you were clear that the small risk you take increases your chances of revitalization?
What else could you do minimize your resistance?
And how many steps do you need before you see that there is never going to be a perfect guarantee that you will have a good experience! You will simply have to give it a try at some point or else you will never know what the thing was all about!
My resistance to running in the woods took a few forms:
- First, I had this idea that it made no sense to get in my car and drive somewhere else in order to run when I could just walk out my front door and do that.
(Too bad for me, my front door doesn’t lead straight into the woods.)
- Related to the idea above, I told myself that any time spent in the car would be a waste. If I only had an hour to spare, I could run more by sticking to my neighborhood.
(This argument made sense as long as I measured benefits of my exercise only in terms of the distance I run. I found out later that this was nonsense.)
- Finally, I warned myself that I might get lost running in the woods! Again, this could lead to my run taking longer than planned, messing up the schedule of my day.
(A perfect argument – impossible to disprove without taking the risk!)
All of these thoughts were actually nothing more than rationalizations for why my status quo experience should be endlessly repeated.
In the end, I didn’t have to answer these arguments.
I simply had to bypass them.
One simple thing made this easier for me to do, and it’s something that could also help you get past your own resistance to doing something new:
I didn’t do it alone.
The day that I chose to run in the woods instead of city streets to get exercise I broke with my normal habits, but it wasn’t the first time I had been there. My first run in those woods actually happened a few days earlier when I was invited there by someone close to me whose company I would enjoy in any setting. Knowing I would enjoy her company meant I didn’t think twice about whether or not I’d like being in the woods.
So by the time I went on my own, in fact, I already had a good idea what it would be like. I’d already tasted it. The only remaining question was: would it just be a one-time experience or could I motivate myself alone?
In fact, I came quite close to caving into all my justifications for avoiding adventure.
But at the last moment, the more confident and spontaneous part of me looked at the more timid and boring part of me, through his hands up in the air, and said:
“Oh, COME . . . ON!!”
That was enough.
I went running in the woods and I never looked back.
– – –
OK, now it’s your turn to do something non-habitual . . .
If you do it – and let me know about it by answering the questions in the form below – you might just win a free Feldenkrais session!
(If you are in the DC area, we can do that in my studio, if you are elsewhere, we’ll do it via Skype)
I’m interested to find out if you also experience that doing one simple thing differently can change quite a lot.
At the same time, perhaps you will also discover how that one simple thing is also not always so simple.
I wonder what internal resistance you might face and how you’ll work through it? Will it just be a silly waste of your time, or will something new open up for you that you find you might wish to explore further?
In my next blog, I will report more on the new experiences I’ve been having in the woods, (something I’m already making into a new habit). But I’d also like to share some stories from readers like you who are willing to try something non-habitual and explore the value in doing that.
If your story is included in the next blog post, you’ll win the free session!
(I’m hoping for multiple winners . . . )
Still not sure what to do?
Here’s a few more ideas of things you can try, or to get you thinking more about something that would be particularly meaningful to you:
- Which hand is your dominant hand? Either way, give it a break and use your other hand to do one of the following things: brush your teeth, comb your hair, sign your name, put on make-up, shave (but be careful!!), hold your tennis racquet, etc.
(NOTE: it is NOT important to “do it well” . . . just find out what happens if you spend some time in one of these activities with your non-dominant hand. What is difficult? How do you adjust? Does it get easier with practice?)
- Get an eye patch at your local drug store. Put it on and keep it on for a while as you go about your day (obviously, think twice about whether this is a good idea while driving!). Do you know that you see better out of one eye? Great – make that the one that you cover up!
- Do you usually keep to yourself when in public? Then make a point of striking up conversation with at least three strangers the next time you go to the supermarket, the bank, or wherever else you are going.
- What are your habits on-line? How could you challenge those habits? What do you post about (not post about) on social media? What do you usually comment on (or not)? Is there something you’ve never shared about yourself on-line that you could consider sharing?
- What is the tone of voice you usually use when you talk to yourself? What words do you choose? How could you change your internal dialogue to a non-habitual mode of communication? What setting or activity would be the most interesting place for you to explore this?
- When you do odd things, do you usually keep it to yourself? This time, share it with the world! Report on your experiences by filling out the form below (1-2 sentence answers are sufficient, but if you have more of a story to tell, please do!!)
TELL ME ABOUT THE RESULTS OF YOUR
EXPERIMENTS WITH THE NON-HABITUAL!!