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How to Get Unset in Your Ways

By Jeffrey Baumgartner

One of the things that happens to those of us who reach and surpass a certain age is that we become set in our ways. Sure, we humans are creatures of habit at all ages, but most of us become increasingly reluctant to change those habits as we get older. This is not necessarily a bad thing, at least if the habits are good, like eating healthy meals on a regular basis, jogging every other day or, most importantly, reading AwesomeYou.Be regularly. Stalking your neighbours or drinking yourself silly every night, on the other hand, are not good habits.

However, if you become too set in your ways, even good ways, you become set in your thinking and that's bad for creativity, intellect and interestingness. Changing some of those ways, on the other hand, is good for creativity, intellect, and interestingness. Moreover, if you have a desire to change your life in a big way, but are afraid to move forward, starting with small life changes can help prepare your mindset for the big change.

So, let's look at what you might do to become unset in your ways.

1. Ask Others About Your Habits

While you are aware of some of your habits, you are probably not aware of all of them, especially the most insidious ones. So, ask your partner, your older kids or your friends. Ask colleagues. Chances are, people will identify at least one habit that you would really prefer you did not have. Changing this habit is a good start because you will feel better about yourself once you have done so.

However, put yourself in listening mode once you have asked the question and then refrain from being defensive if you do not like what you hear. If people believe you have a bad habit, changing that habit is a better strategy than getting ticked off with people honest enough to tell you about it.

2. Move to a New Town, City or Country

Okay, this is a big, bold change especially if you move to a new country. But changing your home and your environment forces you to make all kinds of changes. You need to learn your way around your new city; discover new shops, restaurants and places of entertainment; get to know the neighbours; and find your way around geographically. If you move to a new country you will need to learn much more. You will have to learn a new language (or a new way of speaking your native tongue if, for example, you move from Miami to Melbourne) or get used to using a different language. You will have to become accustomed to doing things in new ways. If you make a move to a very different culture − for example from Lisbon to Bangkok (as I did, albeit when I was in my mid 20s) − you should learn very new cultural norms, social behaviour and etiquette.

If you do move to a new country, do not live in an expatriates neighbourhood, hang out with other people from your own country and complain about the locals. Doing so would spoil your chance to learn and be inspired by your new culture. Unfortunately, a lot of people who move to a new country do exactly this.

3. Say Yes More Often

How often have you turned down an invitation or a suggestion to do something because it would interfere with a habit or it wasn't your kind of thing or you simply could not be bothered to go? Too often, I would guess. You may even have reached the point where you automatically say 'no' to invitations without even thinking about it. If so, make it a habit to stop and really consider every suggestion people make and every invitation you receive. Unless there is a good reason to say 'no', say 'yes". It's a sure way to experience new things.

4. Change Your Transportation to Work

Cartoon: woman commuting on pogo stickA classic suggestion for getting out of your comfort zone is to take a different route to work. I will go one step further and suggest taking a different mode of transportation to work. If you usually drive and work is not far away, take a bicycle. Alternatively, take public transportation, hitch-hike or bounce to work on a pogo stick.

If you usually drive to work, you may be reluctant to use other forms of transport because the will be slower and so take up more of your precious time. In fact, this isn't true. When you are driving, you cannot do much else. It is wasted time/ If you take a train, you can read, take a nap or get some work done. You can write that long overdue email to your sister or work on the book you've always wanted to write. You can look out the window, be inspired and write down your inspirations before you lose them.

If you bicycle, the relaxed pace will give you time to think − and if you are inspired, you can easily stop anywhere and take notes. Moreover, the daily exercise will probably extend your life. It will certainly be good for your health. I regularly bicycle from my village to Leuven, a small university city 12km away. If I do this during commuting times, I inevitably notice that the bicyclists look healthier, thinner and happier than the people stuck in cars.

5. Get Outside More Often

If you work indoors, such as in an office, you very likely do not get outside enough. If you work in an office and regularly drive to a fitness centre to ride a stationary bicycle or other device, stop and think about what you are doing. It is insane.

Unless you do so already, get outside more often. Go for walks. Go hiking. Sit outside in your garden and read or have a drink with your partner. Go for a bicycle ride. Go for a swim. Play with your kids or your grandkids or your neighbours' kids. Shoot some baskets. Kick a ball around. Kiss your partner in the rain. There is so much you can do outdoors.

6. Get on Your Bike

Speaking of bicycles, if you have not got one, get one. If you have got one, use it more often. For errands and trips of less than 10km (about six miles) use the bike instead of your car. It's healthy, relaxing and good for the environment. If you usually drive, you will be astounded when you bicycle along routes you usually drive along. You will see more and notice more. Neighbours are likely to wave. Bicycles are great.

7. Meet Up with an Old Acquaintance

Make an appointment to meet an old friend or school mate or colleague or anyone you know but whom you do not see often. Or make an appointment to meet up with someone you've just met. People who are not close to you can be very inspiring. They perceive you differently than do people you know well. People outside your usual circle of friends and contacts can also often connect you to new opportunities, new things to do and new people.

8. Take a Day Trip This Weekend

Get up early on Saturday and Sunday and go somewhere interesting that you've never visited before − or at least someplace you have not visited in a long time. It might be a park, an historical site or a beach. Spend the day there with family or friends or alone. You will find it a refreshing change from your usual weekend activities.

9. Learn a Language or a New Skill

Check out the adult education opportunities in your area and sign up for a course in something interesting, such as learning a new language. Learning a language or a skill is a great way to break old habits, learn and refresh the brain. Adult education courses are also a good way to meet new people in your area.

10. Join a Club − or Start One

In the same vein, join a local book club, or sports club or game club or Imagination Club. It is a good way to meet new people, learn and grow. And, if the right kind of club does not exist in your area, start one. That's an even better way to meet new people. If you are not up to starting a club on your own, do it with a friend. I started the Brussels Imagination Club with a good friend, it's proven great fun, enlightening and a great way to meet people.

11. Rent Out a Room

If you live alone or just with your partner, and have a spare room, consider renting it out. If there is a university nearby, you could probably rent it out to a student. Alternatively, register with AirBnB or a similar accommodation facilitator and rent your room to travellers. It's a great way to meet travellers from all over the place. And that is a sure way to disrupt your daily routines.

12. Do Something You've Been Meaning to Do for Ages

Is there something you've been meaning to do for ages, but have put off? Maybe you've always fancied having a cat. Maybe you've been dreaming about converting the attic into a loft space. Maybe you want to try out Internet dating following a divorce. There's no better time than the present to get started on any of these things.

In fact there are gazillions of things you can do to unset you from your ways, break habits and inspire you. I've listed a dozen. I expect you could come up with more.

So, go ahead and do something today to shake up your life a little or a lot − and share it with me, I would love to know your experiences!

 

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