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Escaping Routine

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Do you have the sense that the months (and years) are slipping past too quickly? No doubt you’ve once groaned, “I can’t believe it’s April already. Wasn’t it just New Year’s Eve?” Even worse, you’ve heard someone celebrating 25 years on the job mutter a little sadly, “It seems like yesterday that I walked into this company.”

The culprit here is routine. The sameness of each passing day can put your mind in neutral. Deprived of input, your sense of observation and your appreciation of what life can offer will actually wither from lack of use. The months pass like in those old movies where the wind blows away the pages of a calendar.

You can actually expand your sense of time by consciously making changes in your life. Ever go on a vacation where you were seeing new sights from morning to night? Lying exhaustedly in your hotel room that evening, you think how morning seemed such a long time ago.

Spice up your life with change: new interests, hobbies, friends, and weekend getaways (even right where you live). You don’t necessarily need to do more; you only need do something different.

Jill J., a dental hygienist from Ottawa, IL, had a real jolt one morning when she realized that in working the same job for ten years, she simply couldn’t distinguish one year from another. As she lay in bed, she mused how one set of ten years, like those between eight and eighteen, had seemed so long, and so interesting. But the past decade had passed as quickly as a finger snap. Yikes!

Jill began making lists: “My Dreams,” “Special Projects,” “Places I Want to Visit,” and “Ideas That Are Important to Me.” She also began keeping a journal.

Within a month, Jill had enrolled in an art class and was spending early mornings at her canvas. At the local bookstore, the owner invited her to join a weekly book discussion. After evenings of challenging conversations, Jill would leave feeling energized. And three months into her project for change, she could barely contain her pleasure as she asked her karate instructor, “Do you think I’ll be eligible for my brown belt by the end of the year?”

One year later, Jill sat in an outdoor café on St. Mark’s Square in Venice, smiling to herself and thinking about her next adventure.

Getting started
Begin slowly, but with firm resolve that you will not awaken one morning wondering where all those years went. On the other hand, don’t go crazy with a slew of resolutions you can’t fulfill. Here are a few tips:

Begin a journal. As a baseline, record in detail one full day in your life, morning until night. Although you’ll start setting some goals, allow space on each page to describe…

One interesting and unique activity of your day. Don’t let a day go by without something, no matter how small. A new book, a phone call to an old friend, repainting the kitchen. But just as important as recording what you’ve done, it’s very important to…

List your goals. And mull over the steps you’ll need to take in order to fulfill them. Maybe the trip to Paris requires you to re-think your budget. Your karate class means a shuffling of your schedule and learning to say no to outside demands on your time.

Take classes. Especially in areas that might serve your future goals. Like geography, French, or tango.

Don’t be stopped by an “if only” mentality or the discouragement of well-meaning friends. Don’t put off the trip to Paris until you lose weight. And, yes, you might miss a promotion at the most unchallenging job on the planet. But is that what you want with your life?

Go away. Travelling is the easiest way to stop routine in its tracks. Go camping in a nearby state park. Get on a bus and head for a weekend in a big city or small town. Visit a museum or park. Buy a cheap air ticket and spend a few days exploring a place you’d never think of visiting.

Get over the fear factor. If you walk out on the job you hate, another will turn up. When you’re in a strange city, most people are very nice and usually a lot like you. Airplanes rarely crash. The animals outside your tent and more worried about you than you should be of them. The odd-looking dish in the Ethiopian restaurant won’t upset your stomach.

You can break the routine in the next few minutes by planning a picnic, scheduling a massage, enrolling in that yoga class, or staring at a map and letting your imagination guide you to new dreams. What fun!

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