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Is it Time to Break the Mold?

With most part of everyday life, there is an accepted way of doing things. That is over all a good thing because it allows for projects to move forward and work to get done and people to feel a sense of stability. Without a basic agreement on how things are done, it would be like replacing the entire population with curious five-year-olds.

“Why do we drive on the right side of the road?”

“Why do we sleep at night and stay awake during the day?”

“Why do we stand in line at the grocery store?”

“Why do we vote on the first Tuesday in November?”

“Why do we pay taxes on April 15th?”

BECAUSE! OK?!? JUST BECAUSE! Because that is the way it is done!

That being said, it is sometimes a good thing to see the world with the wonder of a five-year-old. Some things should be questioned. Is it time to break the mold and try something new? Where did this mold come from? Why are we stuck in this mold? I think if you dig into any particular behavior, you’ll find we do things the way we do because of one of three reasons.

Reason #1 You’ve broken the mold and made your own.

We all have different temperaments and preferences. Some of us are morning people, others are night owls. There are those who live and die by technology, and there are those who still use land lines and paper calendars. (Seriously, I know some of them.) My point is that we are all different, so we all need to find what works for us individually. It’s not about the “right” way or “wrong” way. It’s about our way.

Anyone who knows me would say my life doesn’t have any systems. Every day is a new adventure. But if you look closely, I do have some method to my madness. It takes me longer than most to find a system I like, but if I do, it’s likely to be tried and true and custom made for me. What comes to mind is the way I do my morning barn chores. I’ve tried doing everything in a million different ways, and I have finally settled on the way that works best for me, and that’s how I do it every time. I’m sure I do it differently than everyone else, but I don’t care. I’ve found system where I don’t forget anything, and I don't have to backtrack or repeat any steps. It’s the best way for me.

Reason #2 You’re borrowing someone else’s mold.

From gurus to influencers to experts (both real and self-described) to friends and family, there is no shortage of people to “should” on us. They know exactly how we should be doing whatever it is we are doing because they did it that way and it worked for them. While it never hurts to seek out advice and information, it also never hurts to questions if it is the “right” way for you.

Many clients have asked me to tell them what they should do. They want a road map to follow. If I feel it is appropriate, I will occasionally indulge them by sharing ideas that have worked for me or other clients, but I always include the caveat that results are not guaranteed. What works for others might not work for them. More often, I take the more “coachy” approach and reflect questions back to them. What do they think they should do? What would they tell a friend to do? If they weren’t afraid, what would be fun to try?

I get it. When you’re not sure how to tackle a problem, it can be comforting to try what others have done, and many times it will work. It’s equally important to understand that just because something didn’t work, it’s not proof that there is something wrong with you or the method. It might just be the wrong method for you.

I have had countless people share with me the wonders of meditation, and I have received multiple recommendations for meditation apps. I have given them each the old college try, but I just don’t like sitting and meditating. I get distracted or can’t find a quiet space or struggle to sit comfortably. Case in point, as I type this, I’m bouncing up and down on a yoga ball instead of sitting on my office chair.

I totally believe meditation is effective, it just hasn’t been effective for me. Maybe I’ll return to it someday, but for now I’m going to put it on a shelf and stick to my movement-based methods for relaxing.

Reason #3 Wait… There’s a mold?

It seems unlikely that we would do something for absolutely no reason at all, yet there comes a time when we have been doing something the same way for so long that we are no longer clear on the reason. It’s just cuz. There is a technical term for this type of action. It’s called a habit. (Don’t get lost in the jargon.) It can be hard to reevaluate these behaviors because we don’t even know we are doing them. As G.I. Joe taught us, “Knowing is half the battle.”

Typically, the “just cuz” systems and processes only change when there is an external event—a global pandemic, for example—that forces people take a close look at them and wonder if there is a better way.

Economist and writer Tim Hartford observed that when the London Tube shut down temporarily, commuters were required to find a different way to get to work. When the Tube finally reopened, many of them had actually found a new and better way to get to work.

When I started my library job, I asked about working from home part of the time, and while I didn’t get a hard “no” I didn’t get an enthusiastic “yes” either. A few months later, when someone inquired about why we don’t film or stream our lectures, we responded that that’s just not how we do things.

Then on March 16, 2020, the country shut down, and we were all sent home indefinitely. Within ONE WEEK, we were offering our classes and programs virtually AND posting the recordings on our YouTube channel. We did all of this while working from home.

Start noticing what molds you are using. Feel free to borrow other people’s molds but also be open to smashing the mold to pieces and casting a new one.


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