I walk regularly through my neighborhood. Not daily. Not at exactly the same time. Not the same route every time, but regularly enough where I find I need to shake up my routine.

Walking is one of those things that our bodies have made so automatic that we don’t usually have to think about it. Since I don’t have to use my brain for walking (hooray!), I typically use my walking time to think or listen to music or a podcast. But I also make it a point to change it up sometimes. 

I’m a naturally fast walker, so sometimes I purposely try to walk slowly. I intentionally notice and appreciate new things on my slow strolls. Sometimes, I try to walk faster than normal, which gets me more focused on how I’m moving and using my muscles. Sometimes I focus on my posture and I am usually surprised to discover that I’ve been spending my day a bit slouchy (I blame it on my abs-of-less-than-steel! Probably not a best seller in the fitness video genre… Moving on!).

All the different approaches to the same task of walking help me learn new things about myself. I can appreciate that my natural style (fast, efficient walking) sometimes needs to be adjusted, like when I walk with my 94-year-old uncle. He’s actually pretty spry for his age and I’ll admit I had a higher than average step count the last time he visited us! I also need to change up my natural style when I walk with my kids because they are infinitely curious and constantly stopping to investigate things. Just as I change it up when I’m chatting with a friend on a walk, where the discussion is more the point than the physical activity.

The same is true in our work. Each of us completes many tasks each day without thinking too hard about them. What routine tasks do you need to try with a new approach? If you normally spend hours crafting the perfect email, try setting a timer on your phone for 10 minutes and click send when it goes off. If you normally lead discussion or are the largest contributor in meetings, try listening for an hour (which will feel roughly like eternity!) instead and see what you learn.

The first time you shake up your routine, it’s going to feel strange and challenging and possibly uncomfortable. Pay attention to those feelings and then reflect on why that might be the case.

There are so many dimensions that make up our authentic selves and many of them we don’t think about because they are innate. Deliberately doing something differently can help you understand yourself more, learn a better approach, gain empathy for other’s perspectives, and open your eyes to a world around you that you’ve been missing.

You may not choose to keep the change long-term and that’s OK. It’s about learning and growing while expanding the edges of your comfort zone. What routine thing can you shake up this week?

Image by Chiemsee2016 from Pixabay