Routine, are you friend or foe?
How I do love to know what to do and when to do it. That feeling of confidence when, like clockwork, this ticks so that tocks. The alarm goes off at 5:45. The morning coffee. The paper. The blog post. The conference call. The lunch hour. The 5:00 rush hour (okay that’s getting earlier). The dinner, the news, the emails, the…regularity. The familiar is so comfortable, so reassuring, so bland.
I like it. I thrive in bland. It works. I know what to expect, so I do it. And so, rolled back and forth on the waves of life, I am cradled in calm. I drift off; my senses dulled by the back and forth. Forth and back. Over and under. Round and round. What a friend we have in rhythm.
Is it really friend? What if it’s wrong, or ineffective, or dulling, or blinding, or unhealthy? Would we know? It’s so familiar, so calming, so regular, and feels so right. We may not even notice that it’s rolling us away from where we want to go or getting us stuck in a muddy rut we ourselves have made.
Not unless we change things up. And change is hard because disrupting motion, slowing momentum, or slamming on the breaks take a lot of force. Especially when new direction is still pretty hazy. Familiarity has built momentum, and we’ve got a track record after all. Could what we have been doing for so long really be wrong? Is changing it worth all the effort its gonna take to stop and re-start?
This is what I’m wondering when the visiting coach comes to the field and says to me, “Watch this; they’re gonna hate me.” Then he steps onto the field and says, “Now we play only with the left foot.”
Only with the left? Hmm. This is going to be interesting. These girls are strong players. They’ve played many seasons and have a lot of natural ability. But there are no natural left footers out there. What will they do now?
I watch the game change. The pace does not slow, but the players step up. Knowing they may not play it with their right foot, their body reacts differently, automatically. They turn the other way, open up the other direction, run at a new angle. The game has become new simply by changing up the rules. Not only did their body adapt to a new challenge but their mind got into the act as well. A new stimulus invited new thinking. That felt good, and they saw themselves newly capable. Instead of hating it, they liked it.
What if disruption of routine is necessary to use all our tools? What if changing it up is part of the plan?
Yes, as babes, patterns were what we needed for understanding and differentiating ourselves from the rest of the world. Perhaps as we grow older, dynamism and disruption is necessary. Jarring our patterns is what’s needed to head us aright.
Then Mrs. Reed, my piano teacher was absolutely spot-on when she tut-tutted about that passage I kept playing with improper rhythm over and over again. “Play it all wrong” she told me, “The worse, the better. ” Sure enough, the disruption was just what I needed to get it right.
Could it be that our insistence on doing it our way is exactly what we don’t need? That the minor correction requires complete disruption. Can we trust that if we shake things up they’ll land just as they should?