So it’s my birthday today and i woke up with the usual sense that it was time to do something new. A realisation that the routine was becoming routine and maybe it needed to be shaken up a little.
So today, i’m sitting in a new cafe to write. Not revolutionary, i’ll grant you, but big changes start with small steps. or something like that.
There’s a lot to be said for routine. It’s terribly efficient for a start. We are hard wired to deal with routine efficiently, our brains love a routine, they adapt and change at a physical level to deal with it. We develop all sorts of schemas and patterns that can be replicated time and again, so that when i walk into a cafe and order a latte, i barely have to think about it at all. All i need to do is input the initial impetus, and my brain efficiently deals with the rest. I don’t have to think about moving my legs to walk in the door, working my hands to open my wallet, i don’t even have to think much about which muffin to choose, because i always choose the same one (blueberry). I’m a highly efficient coffee consumer.
But i have changed something today. The environment is different. The coffee is different and the cake is smaller. I’ve moved my boundaries. Not far, i’ll grant you, but far enough to make me wonder.
We live within parameters that are set by our experience, by our knowledge, skills, attitudes, friends and finances. We operate, think, do and drink within these parameters. It’s the foundation of routine. Whilst we define our parameters, to a large extent, our parameters define us. We’ve spoken before about Worldview, our internal map of ‘what is’, which is challenged by anything new, which needs to be rationalised and incorporated against the existing knowledge, and worldview, similarly, is constrained by our parameters.
Changing our boundaries changes who we are. This was the premise of the Grand Tour, undertaken by adventurous victorian gentlemen, or the Gap Year, undertaken by impoverished English students. The principle was the same. Open your eyes to wider possibilities, experience different culture, drink different coffee.
Whilst routine is a wonderful thing, change is good too, and it’s a never ending learning journey to expose ourselves to new ideas, to meet new people and think new thoughts. Change isn’t just something that happens to us, it’s something that we do as well. Yesterday, i was talking to a friend and said ‘you can change anything’, and i meant it.
If we are ignorant of something, we can seek out knowledge, if we are frustrated by something, we can take steps to change it. The desire to change things is strong, and for many learners it’s the root of their motivation.
Time and again i meet people who have woken up one day and looked around them, thinking ‘this is not the life i want, i will change it’. The thatcher who put himself through a degree in Communication and learnt to read in the process. The Teacher who became a musician. The musician who became a teacher. We are all surrounded by people who have learnt incredible things, all of which were sparked by their desire to change; to change themselves, to change the world, to change anything.
This isn’t a call to arms, to drop the old and try something new, but rather a reflection on the importance of exposing ourselves to change, of being unafraid to learn things, be they physical, intellectual or spiritual.
So is it all about the new? No, because we can only open ourselves up to change because we have the ‘old’, our foundation of existing skills, knowledge, friends and family, those who support us through change. And this is true for learning that we do at home or at work; we need support. Be it learning to be an artist or learning to be a Financial Planner, we frequently see learners who only succeed because of the support they get. A friend who has studied for two years, every evening, whose partner always cooks the meal, to lighten the load. Small things, but essential.
So i’ve woken up, as is typical of anniversaries, ready for change, with a strong foundation of support to base it upon. Now i just need a plan…