Wake up and ditch the routine

In my last post, I suggested that we live such hectic lives that we have forgotten how to truly enjoy ourselves – not the most novel of observations, but perhaps one that few of us stop and do something about.  A recent article in the NY Times, How to Train the Aging Brain, indirectly points out another: we’re all stuck in routines, from routine behaviors to routine ideas and beliefs.

(The article’s actually about how challenging our existing viewpoints can create new neural pathways and keep the middle-age brain in better shape.  But I think the point is broader.  After all, shouldn’t young adults also want to keep developing their brains, even if it’s not improving their short-term memory?)

I myself am a victim to routine; I wake up at the same times, take the same buses, go to the gym on the same days, and order the same drinks at Second Cup.  And sometimes, in the midst of this routine, I “wake up” and wonder what’s been going on.  Why am I not thinking about what I’m doing?  Why does my mind feel so foggy?  Do I really want a small green tea with lemon?

And that’s just the beginning.  In the realm of ideas, the stakes of routine thinking are even higher.  Making decisions based on unconsidered beliefs and principles, we affect the lives of ourselves, our friends and spouses, and the children to whom we pass on these dusty dogmas.  It’s the difference between lending a helping hand and turning away in apathy, plainly speaking the truth or wandering in a maze of lies, pursuing an exciting career or sacrificing our dreams.

So I think all brains should be trained to avoid the routine – not just to increase brainpower, but for something much more important: happiness.

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