Oh, would that my mind could let fall its dead ideas, as the tree does its withered leaves!
Have you ever felt like you were in a rut? No matter how hard you try to shake things up, start fresh or come up with innovative solutions to what’s bugging you, you just seem to end up right back where you started. I’m sure most of us have felt this way at one time or another about one or more parts of our lives.
In my experience, it’s hard to engineer an epiphany. It’s like trying to catch a pesky fly. Just when you’re certain you’ve got it in your sights it flits away, eluding your grasp anew. Sometimes new perspectives incubate best at a simmering pace rather than a pressure cooker intensity.
To instigate behavioural, intellectual or emotional change we sometimes need to make some physical changes. I’m not sure why, but it works. How many times have you found yourself on vacation or visiting another locale and wondered: Why can’t I relax and enjoy life like this at home? Why does food taste better here? Why do colours look more vibrant? Why do I feel more engaged?
Do you ever find that you’re a lot more productive after a vacation or even a short break? How many times do we skip our breaks and put off vacations with the idea that we’ll somehow accomplish or earn more if we just push it a little harder a little longer? I do it all the time. I fritter away minutes with unproductive activities because I really don’t want to do the work at hand. Then I become stressed because I’ve wasted time by neither working nor relaxing. Then I’m even less productive the following day because I’m burnt out. It becomes a vicious cycle.
Climate Change for Life
While climate change has come to have negative connotations – and rightly so – it can actually be very beneficial for us in the context of changing unproductive habits. We can change a seemingly immutable vicious cycle into a dynamic virtuous circle by simply changing our environment. We can start by identifying any toxins in our environment – both internal and external – that are keeping us from the change we need:
- Toxic Thought Patterns: Do you have recurring thoughts that are keeping you in your rut? The amazing thing about these unproductive thought patterns is that there’s usually just enough truth in them to make it hard for us to let them go.
- Toxic People: There are some folks who tend to be perpetually negative, supporting our toxic thought patterns. Like it or not, they can influence our perspectives and our behaviours. When we cultivate relationships with healthy people, we choke out toxic thought patterns. Another, perhaps more uncomfortable question to ask ourselves is whether we might actually be a toxic force in our own life and possibly the lives of those around us. Even if the answer is yes, that doesn’t mean we can’t change it.
- Toxic Geography: Do you find that the general attitudes in your city, neighbourhood or workplace encourage healthy thought patterns, or do they sap your energy and discourage you from making the changes that will improve your life? If so, consider a change. You might be surprised at how much a change in venue can effect a change in your outlook and behaviour.
- Toxic Environment: Our physical environment can become toxic if we allow our surroundings to become too disorganized. My desk, for example, is a constant source of aggravation for me. Somehow I never manage to keep it tidy for more than a few hours at a time. That can make it very time-consuming to find the things I need and be as productive as I’d like. While the move was a great reason to get closets, drawers and other parts of our new home organized, my desk, as usual, has been the last to receive my attention. Maybe this week I’ll finally get to it.
This type of regular assessment and maintenance can lead to positive outcomes for all four quadrants of your life balance sheet. Just as you will pull weeds and fertilize your lawn, it’s important to cultivate a positive environment in life. When you have a healthy lawn, it’s very difficult for weeds to take root.
Financial Climate Change
As with every other area of life, it’s easy to fall into bad habits with our finances or simply fail to create healthy habits. Over time, these poor habits can become so comfortable that we come to assume they are unchangeable. That’s when things can get really toxic.
We can start to feel like we don’t have any control over our lot in life or that change is hopelessly unattainable. While we may not be able to turn things around in a day or a month, we can always begin by making small changes that gradually add up to big ones. The key is to start. Do something. Move. Change.
That kind of sounds like the opposite of what I was saying with my fly analogy. If we try to aggressively swipe at the fly, we’ll often miss it. My tactic for getting rid of flies in the house is a little different. When I see the fly, I move to the nearest door and open it slightly. Then I just gently shepherd the fly out the door by standing in its way and keeping it from leaving the area. In the end, it’s probably better off outside anyway.
I know that sounds unbelievable, but it usually works. It keeps my son happy because he gets upset when we kill bugs in the house, and I don’t have to deal with the mess created by a squished fly. So, while taking aggressive action may not bring about the desired change, taking no action won’t work either.
If we approach entrenched problems with the same old canned solutions, it’s unlikely we’ll achieve the change we so desperately need. Gradual changes combined with patience and perseverence can sometimes lead to the epiphany that finally snaps us out of our stupor. Making some simple changes to your environment can be the first step to triggering this process.
Have you ever found that a change of scenery has had a profound effect on the way you look at things?