Traditionally, summer is considered break time, especially for kids. If you think about it, though, many kids are not getting a break in a traditional sense: their lives are still incredibly full with sports, classes, and all sorts of activities. What kids are getting is not a break, but a change of pace.
One of my highly accomplished friends recently shared an anecdote from her childhood. Whenever she would tell her grandmother that she wanted a break, her grandmother would reply: “If you want a break, simply do something different. For example, chess is a break from piano practice; gymnastics is a break from chess, and so on.” We laughed, as we saw a mirror of our own words, now directed toward our children.
Grandmother’s wise words to a child are surprisingly applicable to adults. The idea of changing pace rather than taking a break “to do nothing” is brilliant on many levels. Granted, there are times when our bodies are exhausted, and they simply require sleep or stillness. Beyond physical exhaustion, though, it is often the case that when we say we want a break, what we really need is a change.
Doing something differently is difficult, as we have to create new neural pathways for substituting old habits by new ones. Still, if you’re at a point where you want to scream “I NEED A BREAK!”, a change of pace is a non-negotiable necessity. What you want is to feel differently, or possibly, just to feel something, to have interesting thoughts and ideas, and to have something to look forward to. You need a chance of pace.
When we do the same activity for a prolonged period of time, or do something repetitively, we get in auto-pilot mode, and our senses get dull. We don’t feel what we do anymore, but instead, simply go through the motions, while our minds wonder. Our senses are under-stimulated. If you want an example, think of this:
– Do you recall the way you brushed your teeth or made coffee this particular morning?
– Do you still remember the way your tea tastes, if you use the same brand and flavor cup after cup?
– Do you notice how beautiful your bedspread is, as you make your bed morning after morning, or how comfortable your seat is as you get in the car for your morning commute?
Our brain learns what “normal” feels like, and after a while, stops paying attention to things that feel and look “normal”(i.e. “everything is as usual”). After identifying “normal”, the brain doesn’t need to waste time on “normal”, and can use its bandwidth on things that are new or out of place in order to keep you out of potential danger. What will happen if you add new things to your environment without putting yourself in danger, in order to help stimulate all of your senses?
Whenever you experience burnout, or you realize that you haven’t felt anything for a while, or you’ve stopped enjoying activities that you used to love, one solution is to create a change of pace. You don’t need to make drastic permanent moves like quitting, breaking up, or leaving. Instead, find new ways of doing things in order to wake up your senses. Here are some of the things you can try:
– Eat your lunch outside
– Take a new route to work
– Take a shower in the dark
– Create a game for yourself that challenges you to do something new: go to one new museum every month for a year; watch one TED talk per day for a month; try one new dish every week. Get a “partner in crime”, to help you stick with the game and compare notes.
– Read one book outside of your usual circle of interests
– Sleep on the other side of the bed for one week, or move your pillow to the other end of the bed.
– Switch the brand and flavor of your toothpaste, your coffee, or your yogurt
– Visit a place that you’ve never seen before. A nearby town that you’ve heard a lot about, but never visited? A gallery? An arboretum? A fishing spot?
– Make time to observe an activity that you’ve never stopped to observe before. Have you ever watched a rugby practice? Seen a ballet on stage rather than on a screen? Seen a glass-blower at work? Watched a fisherman catch a large fish?
– Move your body in a way it hasn’t moved before. Try capoeira, sit in a lotus pose, go roller-blading (wear safety gear, stretch, and go with a buddy if it’s your first time!), take a swim class, get a fencing lesson, try playing basketball or ping-pong, or go down a water slide.
– Move your computer to a new spot, or orient your workstation in another direction for a week.
– If you’re always running around, and talking as part of your daily routine, try sitting still and quietly for some time, just for a change of pace. If you’re usually doing things quietly by yourself, make time to start more conversations.
Creating a change of pace is often easier than getting a break. You can continue to do the things that you need to do, and simply do them in a new way in order to wake up your senses and feel fully alive again. The curious thing is that in the process of changing pace, you’ll find yourself becoming a more interesting person in your own eyes. You’ll start getting fresh ideas about all aspects of your life, you’ll have new things to talk about, new experiences to take in, and a sense that you’re purposefully doing something in your life. We don’t need a break as much as we need a change of pace.
Will you please share with me if you decide to experiment with any of the ideas in this article? Every time I get a feedback email from you, it truly feels like a celebration. Thank you! I can share that my change of pace this summer includes learning to understand authenticity; reading about a boy trapped in his body; processing an interesting angle on story-telling from a sharp, successful entrepreneur; taking pointers on love from a zen master.
MY BIG NEWS that I can finally share:
I’m SOOOO excited to share with you an amazing news: please, join me for the workshop that I’ll be teaching at the New York Open Center this October! This is a hands-on intuition development program to help you use your senses to get and send out useful information that can improve your life. The program will be rooted in current academic research, and its practical applications. Tuesdays, Oct. 27-Nov. 24th, 5:45-7:45 p.m.. Please, register, and share information with your NYC friends! Taking the Intuition Leap: Solutions for Everyday Living.
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