Habits are a brilliant thing to cultivate.
They help keep you in shape.
They allow you to write on a regular basis.
They can even quiet some of the noise in your head if you use the power of having a habit to meditate.
I use all of the above and a few more to help keep me functioning as a reasonably sane member of society.
Having good habits is essential for your toolbox of life skills.
Unfortunately, there’s a clever trap that comes buried within those same qualities of developing and maintaining a habit. A power or a process that left unchecked can turn a positive into a negative.
It sneaks up quite sudden, and before you know it those same habits that you’ve developed to help you stay on top of your day to day existence, can begin to run your entire life.
Even scarier is that it seems to accelerate when you hit middle-age, where I’m currently at.
No thanks, I can’t eat that now. Friday is when I have my salmon.
I’d love to, but Thursday is when I see my mates from work, sorry.
Whatever the version, you get the idea.
You stop yourself from trying something new or engaging with someone on a different day. It can turn an activity that was once pleasurable into something that’s now on your to-do list.
Here’s my trick.
Whenever I go out for a coffee, and it doesn’t matter what the store or the chain is.
I always say the same thing when they ask me for my order.
What’s your latest brew?
There’s inevitably a pause from the barista. The servers are not used to hearing anything but a direct order from their customers.
“I’m sorry.” They will say back, and by now, he or she is looking at me.
I’ll repeat it.
“What’s your latest brew? What coffee have you just made?”
By now, they get it, and a smile appears.
My simple request has taken them out of their day to day grind, yes that’s a coffee pun, and it’s turned me, an unknown customer who wants his coffee, into a real person.
The server will check to see what’s their freshest coffee, sometimes it’s a roast I wouldn’t usually order, but that’s not the point.
The point is this one small act of being random cheers me up, and I end up having a real interaction with the person serving me. It slows the two of us down and allows for a real connection for one brief moment.
Several times after doing this I’ve gotten into discussions about the power of being random and how all of us are so busy trying to construct a world where we try to anticipate and control everything that we’re missing the point of being alive.
This simple, but powerful act of injecting something random into your day has a spill off effect too.
Or at least it does for me.
It forces me to question if what I’m currently involved in is an active part of my life. Is it something I’m enjoying or is it only there because it’s a Tuesday and that’s what I do on that day.
It also helps me to say yes to things that are out of my comfort zone.
I find it too easy in middle-age to slide into a world that doesn’t change — one of endless patterns repeated over and over again.
This uncomplicated act of ordering a bit of randomness forces me to pause and reflect on what I want out of life.
Is it more of the same? Or do I want to be open to new things?
I realize the new is not always pleasant or comfortable or even safe.
After many coffee orders I’ve made the choice that works for me.
I value the unexpected. I’m okay with taking the good or the bad, but just not the same.
And it all starts with a simple cup of coffee.