Your ride to work. Your time at the grocery store. Checking email. Making dinner. Your call with your mother. Your lunch with your colleagues. Your time in front of the television. Your time at an organization. There are so many places in our lives that we have accepted as bland, dull, tedious, normal – ordinary. Why? A lot of it has to do with our brain.
Our brain loves routines. It feels it is at its best when it can predict what is coming next – this is part of what some call our lizard brain or habit brain – you know, the fight or flight brain. But as we have evolved, so has our brain. We have our thinking brain, our pre-frontal cortex, that has given us the ability to think – to stop, notice and consider – to respond instead of react. We can move past routine – past lizard or habit brain – but it requires effort.
What would it take for you to stop just long enough in your busy life to shake yourself out of a routine? Because in the moment of stopping, you have the ability of showing up more present, more aware and more connected to your world. You have the ability to use the information that you have just gathered by being present in this moment to see things that were there, but just out of view, to improve what could happen in the next moment.
And, when you stop and notice your world (the same world you went zooming past in habit mode), remember to ask this important question: “What could make this better?”
As you stop, notice and consider something better, you create the time and the space to see the extraordinary in your moment – something that evaded you until you chose to stop, notice and consider. You start to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Asking the question, “What could make this better” doesn’t presume that things are bad. It simply reminds us that life is not a dress rehearsal and if we are not bringing our best, then we are missing out on some parts of our amazing lives. We know that hidden in each ordinary thing of life is something extraordinary; extraordinary things come packaged in ordinary events to the untrained eye.
Dr. Ellen Langer shares in her book Mindfulness, that mindfulness is “the intentional act of seeking out, creating or noticing new things.” As you mindfully look at the routine, you see past the routine – you see new things. Couple this with the question, “what could make this better?” and you are introduced to a way to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Tune in to your life events and ask the question:
- Dinner – what could make this better?
- Your relationship with kids, your spouse, your partner, your family, your colleagues – what could make this better?
- A report completed at work – what could make this better?
- A phone call to a friend – what could make this better?
- Your commute – what could make it better?
- Your experience at a store or business – what could make it better?
Our world has such amazing things for us, though most of us miss them; we don’t see them as amazing – they just look ordinary. As we tune in and become more mindful, we really do see that few things in our world are ordinary.
Stop, notice then consider. This can end the routine. And with the end of routine comes the possibility of change – of improvement – of seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary.