Besides being a life coach, I am a wedding celebrant. Last weekend I married a couple under the Shawangunk Mountains and it was to be the last wedding I conducted in order to focus solely on coaching. But at the last minute I decided to help out an officiant whose registration had just expired by presiding with her at a wedding—even though I did not write the ceremony. As I reviewed the wedding script that I was to be a part of, I had an interesting reaction. It is a lovely ceremony, but it didn’t have that much to say specifically about the couple. As I read it I thought, “This isn’t how I’d do it.” Yes, it is filled with love and all the reasons why we enter into marriage and is well written. Pondering it, I spoke my thoughts to my husband and he said, “You know what Earth Wind and Fire says—It’s All About Love.” I let that sink in. I thought about it for a few good minutes and the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I was being very stuck in my view of the right way to write a wedding. I had gotten used to a certain approach that I was comfortable with and that had worked really well for me. In the end, however, a wedding is indeed all about love and the ceremony that my colleague had written is beautiful and perfect as is. It is perfect even if it isn’t the way I’d write it. And I had to admit to myself that maybe I was a bit bored with my way of writing weddings.
It is so easy to get stuck in doing things your own way. When you do something over and over again and you become proficient in your task and you are successful in that method, why wouldn’t you continue to do it that way? Isn’t that the very definition of an expert? So here’s the rub—it is indeed a great thing to become skilled at anything in this life and become an expert. With repetition and perhaps little improvements along the way and years of experience, you develop and grow and become secure in your skills. And yet, you could be even better if you allow for new information, new perspectives and new ways of doing. You don’t lose your expertise when you allow for new approaches. If instead you incorporate the new ideas into what you already know—that is how you really grow and magnify your expertise. Rather than being a closed system where you do what you do the same way each time, being open to new methods is the key to expansion.
This shouldn’t be so surprising to me. I am all about stepping outside my comfort zone to expand. Yet somehow I hadn’t realized how easy it is to become complacent when you are successful. And that applies to just about everything you do in life. This is true whether it is your work in the world or if it is everyday tasks. Becoming regimented in what you do can be a very efficient and effective way to do things. But if they are repeated too often in the same way it is easy to become complacent. Worse yet, you can become bored and even boring when you repeat something over and over again. Looking outside for alternative methods of doing something will yield so much more.
Everyday cooking is a good example. If you are skilled at cooking, it is easy to throw together a meal that tastes good. Think about what herbs and spices you tend to use. Probably you have a set number of things that you lean on regularly. Especially if you have been cooking for 40 years or more like me. So I am talking about a skill that is almost second nature to you. Then you get a new recipe that uses different ingredients or just a new combination of ingredients and you are astounded at how tasty and complex the food tastes. Just as you got stuck in your ways, your taste buds got stuck and used to a certain sensation. You have habituated. Habituation is a double edge sword for sure. It is great to be automated, but you must balance that with variation or else you will get bored.
Now let’s apply this to work. Are you bored at work? Are you doing the same thing each day and always in the same way? Have you found short cuts that make the process go smoothly but so smoothly that in the end—even if successful—you are complacent and bored or perhaps boring to others too? It’s time to shake things up. Try a new way. Ask for ideas from other people. Try a new “recipe” at work. Include ideas and views from other teams. Change your schedule and move your weekly meeting to a new time. Look outside of your company for other ways of doing. Read interesting business books to enlarge your knowledge. Pick an area where you are already very successful. Often those are the hardest to change because “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?” And yet you will be surprised that those are the areas where you can make the greatest improvements and break your boredom. Get unstuck in your own ways and watch the boredom melt away and the success soar.