Killing Monotony: 3 Steps To Finding Novelty In Daily Routine
We’ve all been there, the alarm clock, the daily commute, the same sights and sounds of the office. No matter the culture, the sheer volume of days spent in this rhythm inevitably leads to a sort of surface level monotony. This is hardly an environment which fosters inspiration, yet it is here that we are expected to perform at the highest levels of our intellectual capabilities. It is this environment in which the majority of us will spend most of our waking hours for the rest of our lives. How then, can one simply accept the surface level monotony? We bargain with ourselves, deferring happiness for the weekend or that two week vacation every year.
In a recent interview Jason Silva, the viral philosopher and public intellectual, described the key ingredients to his creative process as “rest, relaxation, novel spaces, novel environments, disconnection from everyday responsibilities and trivialities thus creating a space for the mind to day dream”.
This is a sentiment we can all relate to. Those rare moments when we find ourselves at peace in a new place, the burdens of our everyday existence gone, replaced by a curious sense of wonder. This is the kind of environment that fosters lateral thinking. Connections made between things that previously seem disjointed. It is where many of us experience deep introspective insight and perhaps most importantly it is where we experience bliss, a reminder that we are truly alive. Some seek to live in this perpetual state. (Ski bums come to mind). And there is nothing wrong this. Yet for the majority of us this proves difficult if not impossible. The kids must return to school, the job requires your attendance at the office, reality rears its ugly head. How then can we replicate this experience in our daily lives?
- Challenge Yourself: Physical location is only a small limitation. The mind is free to wander. Perhaps you’ve had a cathartic experience reading a book or watching a film. Your body is static but your mind has been catapulted into a dimension of ideas that are new and exciting. Seek out challenges that force you to learn new skills. Acquiring new information creates what is known as a dopamine loop. “Dopamine causes you to want, desire, seek out, and search. It increases your general level of arousal and your goal-directed behavior. From an evolutionary stand-point this is critical. The dopamine seeking system keeps you motivated to move through your world, learn, and survive. It’s not just about physical needs such as food, or sex, but also about abstract concepts. Dopamine makes you curious about ideas and fuels your searching for information”. Feed the dopamine loop, seek out new information and in turn you will feel inspired leading you to seek new and different challenges and thus perpetuate the cycle.
- Be Still: Take time out of your day for introspection. Much of our lives are spent being propelled by the momentum of the past. We wander through this dimension repeating the same actions day in and day out without the slightest examination of our thought patterns. Rather than drown out the voices of doubt, take time in the morning or evening to sit in a quiet room in silence. (Mediate if so inclined). Silence equates to pausing that momentum if only for a few brief moments. Those few moments however go a long way. Examine the contents of your own mind and you will discover a hidden reservoir of thoughts buried beneath the surface. They may not all be pleasant but they all contain a valuable lesson.
- Marry The Process Not The Result (Be Present): This is perhaps the most cliche yet relevant point. Presence of mind, which is synonymous with a zen like state, will lead to a sense of fulfillment, this sense of fulfillment will lead to a desire to do said activity solely for the pleasure derived from it, which will in turn lead to a higher quality of work. And this is the desired outcome of the whole endeavor. This is a theme that appears time and again in eastern philosophy. This idea of congruent action is the root of the Sanskrit word Dharma, it is the central concept of the oneness of the Hindus or the “Arete” meaning virtue of the ancient Greeks. It has been referred to as right action in a modern context.
The principle is that the action being taken is congruent with the person performing it. At it’s core it is a rejection of subject and object dualism. There is no separation of self from the activity being performed and a flow state is achieved. This flow state is the optimal state of performance a human being can hope to achieve, a oneness with the task. Whether the task is writing code or shooting jump shots if perseverance is applied to congruent action mastery will be achieved.