Dear Puttylike reader, this is a classic Puttylike post. Meaning, it’s from the early days–from before I really found my voice or knew what I was doing. I’ve chosen to keep this post online for the benefit of Puttylike readers who have worked their way backward through the archives. And also to highlight the fact that everybody starts somewhere! xo, Emilie
I was making a salad the other day. I washed the greens like I usually do, sliced an avocado, threw in a few raspberries and started chopping cucumber. I wasn’t really paying attention. I make a lot of salads and by now the process is pretty mechanical.
But as I began slicing the cucumber that day, I thought, what would happen if I made my slices a little thinner than usual? Would it change the overall taste of the salad? Hm.
In the past, I probably would have brushed the question aside and resumed my usual chopping routine. If something’s not broken, why fix it? as they say. But now my instinct is different. Now, instead of pressing on with the tried and true cucumber chop, my immediate reaction is, lets try it and see.
There are things we do every day, things to which we don’t give a second thought; the route we take to the store, the way we interact with our families, the thoughts that float into our heads. When we aren’t mindful or critical of our patterns, daily life can become one big routine.
Now, don’t get me wrong, routines are important. They protect us from information overload. If we had to ponder every minuscule decision each time it arose, we’d get exhausted. There’s no need to continually reinvent the wheel.
Sometimes when you find the best way of doing something, it’s worth sticking to. In fact, our brain’s ability to routinize small task is what makes it possible to achieve the big goals in life.
The invisible rules that guide us
The problem is that we sometimes prematurely assume that one way is the best way of doing something. We proceed blindly, without bothering to test the assumption.
We see the people around us going to school, specializing in one field, applying for jobs, settling down, buying houses. We see people who become complacent and remain at jobs they despise or stay in unsatisfying relationships. We assume that work and life are two distinct realms and that boredom at work is normal. There invisible rules are everywhere and we seldom question them.
Most people adopt these values blindly and build routines around them. They never ‘try something new and see‘…
Life as a series of experiments
Whether it’s monetizing your passions, taking a trip overseas, or slicing a cucumber differently, begin questioning the things you assume to be ‘just the way things are done’. Each time you wonder ‘what would happen if I did X instead?‘, consider trying it.
You may find that veering from routine makes only a slight difference (as I discovered with the cucumber experiment) or that you were happier with your previous choice. But at least you’ll know for sure. At least you won’t spend your life wondering, what if…