7 ways to break out of routines: upgrade your life

Every day we all do things without thought. Brush our teeth, eat the same food, turn on the same Netflix series every evening. For now, I want to talk about how we live our lives doing the same things over and over without realizing it. Maybe you don’t, but I do.

Have you ever checked your “on this day” notification on Facebook? Sometimes I’ll see a photo of a cappuccino pop up as I’m drinking a cappuccino from the very same café! Why am I taking pictures of my beverages to begin with? That’s for another post. To paraphrase Aristotle, “We are our habits”.

Here are seven ideas to break out of ruts we all get stuck in so easily. Doing things differently takes intention and will not happen unless you put in some effort.

1. Make a list of things you do every day

Keep a pad and paper with you to jot down ideas as they occur, or they will slip past your memory quickly. You can use your phone for this but there is something about physically writing things down with a pen or pencil that sticks with us differently and there is science to back that up but if you prefer keeping notes on your phone, so be it. Maybe you stop at the same Starbucks at the same time every morning and order the same quad-shot-decaf-no-foam-Al Pacino. Maybe you talk to the same people at work about the same topics during your break time. Maybe you have use the same brand toothpaste for 30 years. Start to notice your routines. Writing them down will start to make them easily identifiable.

2. Start with small changes

You have built up the habits that make you who you are over the course of your entire life. When you wake up in the morning and your hair is completely insane; that didn’t happen instantly, it took all night. It’s probably going to take a while to change a lot of habits quickly, but it’s worth it. The good news; small changes lead to bigger changes. Go ahead and simply buy another toothpaste brand. Try it out. If you don’t like it, who cares? Try something else. You may start to realize that you also have been using the same type of toothbrush, or mouthwash and have no idea why.

3. Go somewhere new

Instead of stopping by that same café every morning, try getting your caffeine fix somewhere else. You may end up talking to someone new which could lead to making an entire new set of friends if you end up having some time to stick around and enjoy your coffee or tea in-house. The mood of an entire day can be set up differently starting things off with new interactions as well as different aesthetics from where you usually hang around. A few moments in the morning can shake up the mood and visual monotony of the day. If you don’t like it, go somewhere else the next day.

4. Talk to new people

Your new morning coffee spot is a great place to find someone to talk to if you have time to stick around to enjoy your beverage in a ceramic cup with other café goers. (cardboard and plastic doesn’t do any favors for the taste of your coffee) Don’t know what to say? Just ask a question. Any question. It doesn’t matter. What are you reading? Is that a good book? Are these chairs uncomfortable or is it just me? People love to talk about themselves and their interests. If this seems like it would be uncomfortable, great! Just say something. Give advice if applicable. Suggest another book they may like if you are familiar with the author. Moving out of a comfortable rut will be, well, uncomfortable, but less uncomfortable the more you do it. Say hello to someone walking past you the sidewalk or the neighbor who lives one door down in your apartment. That’s easy.

5. Join a new club or group

Making new friends can be tough, especially if you are no longer in school. It just so happens that the same internet connection used to mindlessly scroll through your social media accounts can be used for getting out of the house and finding new things to do.

With the help of apps like meetup.com or Facebook groups it’s easier than ever to find new people to hang out with and perhaps make some long-term friends you would have never met otherwise. Facebook groups do tend to stay a bit more virtual, depending on the group. The point is to get out of the house and break up your routine. You probably have hundreds of Facebook friends that you never talk to in person. Many of these ‘Friends’ feel like real connections but they are not.

6. Read more

Don’t just read anything. Well, reading anything, but try to read something new. Do you only read fiction? Try reading some non-fiction. Do you like reading humor blogs? Read something about nanotechnology instead; just one. Do you enjoy reading tech blogs? Read a few blogs about, business, photography, anything new. Try print media if you only consume information online. Maybe you don’t like anything else. It doesn’t matter? You probably do like something else, and this is a chance to explore and find what new things you can get interested in and continue to learn about. As a bonus, you will have more to talk about with all these new people you are interacting with. Reading about new things will help you think differently about the world and get out of a mental rut.

7. Ask Why

Why do I stay in this job I hate? Why did I just eat a third bowl of cocoa puffs? Why do I always slice bananas onto my morning cereal? Why do I only buy this brand of jeans? Why do I say yes to things I don’t want to do? Why do I drive to work on warm sunny days when I live close enough to walk? Why does Taco Bell Hot sauce taste terrible on anything that doesn’t come from Taco Bell? Why do I feel terrible after binge watching The House Wives of Orange County? The point is to start asking questions. Lots of questions. Write them down. You may find that you know more of the answers than you first realized but were afraid to confront the question. If you don’t know the answer you will be forced to think about something differently because you have presented a question to yourself that is now in your mind. We may never understand the mysteries of Taco Bell hot sauce, but the question is worth asking.

What’s your strategy for breaking out of routines and trying new things? I’d love to hear your ideas. Just remember, if you always do what you’ve always done you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.