Repetition in our lives means different things to different people.
For many of us, it means settling down, going to the same job day after day or doing the same thing time after time. It’s not very glamorous or exciting... In fact, it’s pretty boring.
Repetition is boring because it is predictable — where’s the passion and the drama? Where are the risks? Or the trials and tribulations from doing something a little less… ordinary?
Where’s the adventure?
Repetition is the Line We Must Cross to Grow Up
When I was younger, I didn’t want to grow up. That’s because adulthood just seemed like a repetition of the same boring stuff. I wanted to keep exploring and keep discovering new things like it was when I was a child.
This mindset set continued into my early adulthood. For example, I used to hate going to the same restaurant twice:
A few years ago I was lucky enough to live in Boston, MA in the U.S and the range of bars, restaurant and diners there was amazing — new rooftops to be explored, trendy neighborhoods and little cubby-hole locals.
There’s was so much choice in Boston, so much new stuff just waiting to be discovered. It was the same when I lived in London, and New York.
Why would I waste my time going to the same place twice when I could learn and experience something totally new?
And if I did end up going to the same place then I sure wasn’t getting the same dish twice.
I use restaurants as an example but there were many areas of my life where I used to feel like that. Travel, weekend activities, exercise… even work. After I had experienced something once I thought ‘great’… but what’s next?
“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” — Walt Disney
There is a Danger in Always Seeking New Things
While there is certainly something great about learning and seeing new things, I don’t think it’s healthy to shy away from doing the same thing, over and over.
Because if we don’t, we set a very high bar to be satisfied.
We’ll become restless and unhappy because we seek something more and more exciting each time. As we raise the bar higher and higher we realise our expectations are suddenly sky high… so high that we can’t even reach them anymore. Like a drug addict we need a bigger and bigger amount of excitement just to feel the same effects.
It is impossible to do new things all the time.
So after a time, our expectations are not met and we feel flat and deflated. We are sad that we are not doing the hottest, the coolest, the best at every waking moment. Even the fun experience of going out for dinner can be immediately negated when we feel disappointed we’re going to the same place twice.
But don’t you see?
It’s unreasonable to think we need to do that stuff all the time.
Here’s the critical part — this constant striving for the new things is crushing our sense of satisfaction with the ordinary. Because most things are ordinary, and slightly repetitive. It is the ordinary that happens every day, and it is in the ordinary that we must find happiness. We can’t fly somewhere new each week, or jump out of a plane every morning.
We don’t have to either.
Whether through traveling, going to a restaurant or a daily routine, there are a lot of benefits to doing the same things over and over.
Routine Through Sport
I know this sounds crazy, but I’ve learned a lot from taking up golf.
I often go a lot to the driving range with an old bag of golf balls so that I can practice my swing. When I’m there, I get myself into a routine of hitting them, one after the other, focusing on just one tiny part of my game. The driving range is a great way to practice, although I must admit it’s not really that exciting.
It’s the same location, the same set of golf clubs and the same balls.
Hell, I’m probably even wearing the same clothes.
But I find joy in it.
Most surprisingly, it’s the repetitiveness aspect that I really enjoy the most.
Why is it that I enjoy the repetitiveness? Well, it’s through doing something over an over that you can really appreciate the extraordinary.
See, people shy away from repetition because they think they won’t learn something new. It’s why we quit jobs, travel to new lands and meet new people. A wariness of repetition is why we’re hesitant to settle down or move in with a boyfriend. We seek choice and new things. We seek extremes.
Yet repetition is actually the greatest way of finding those extremes. And really enjoying them.
By repeating something we learn all possible outcomes, learning what is likely, what is not and what is a true gem. The bell curve of those same experiences allows you to truly appreciate the extraordinary when it does come around.
It’s why after months and months of practice, when you finally hit that 9-iron over 100 yards you realise THAT is extraordinary.
I actually achieved something new because of that repetition.
I wouldn’t have got there otherwise.
The Key to Happiness is Enjoying the Repetition
I used to really fight against the idea of repetition because I saw it as boring and uninteresting.
Not any more.
Perhaps I’m just getting older, but I’ve realised that repetition actually has some amazing benefits you wouldn’t realise otherwise.
And actually, I think finding joy in the repetition is important because it is key to happiness. Repetition lets me be happier with everyday, ordinary things in life and lets me appreciate the extraordinary more when it does happen.
I can appreciate the nuances a lot more, too. For example, while I do go to the exact same driving range everyday to hit the same golf balls, I see something new everytime. I see a new bird that I hadn’t noticed before. I see a dog rushing over the sand dunes to the beach. I meet a neighbor I hadn’t met before. I see a different cloud pattern in the sky, the sunlight lighting up a different spot.
I still have a thirst for adventure and doing new things.
But it’s different now — I don’t seek them as a way to ‘fill the gap’. I can enjoy them much more for what they are. And I can practice my crafts and value the good times when they come, after much hard work.
Plus, when I finally get to go to a new restaurant now— wow, what a treat! What a moment to enjoy, to savor and be grateful for! I didn’t have that perspective before. A lot of people would be very jealous of that opportunity.
I don’t have to go somewhere new every night. In fact, not going somewhere new every night makes those other times so much more worth it.
Less is more after all.