Get With It, Get On With It – The Antidote For Complacency
As I said in my previous post, why wait for disaster to wake you when you can wake yourself and keep yourself awake? Isn’t being awake to this moment and it’s precious nature better than a rude awakening from the slumber of contented discontent? Today, I’m writing about what you can do to overcome complacency in yourself.
It’s the holiday season, and people either love the holidays or hate them. Many of my patients over the years struggled with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in which the short days and cold weather put them in a mental and emotional deep freeze. If you’re SAD about how you are living your life, this post is for you.
Whenever your life force is at a low ebb, a lack of energy and motion in your life could be a sign that your innate creativity is atrophying along with the rest of you. Like food left in the freezer too long , or a vintage wine turned to vinegar, everything on earth eventually goes into decay. To keep life fresh, you’ve got to make a little positive trouble now and then, stir the pot, thaw the food, pop the cork, rattle the cage, move it intentionally or lose it!
Creative living stands out against the darkness of time, surrounded by the light of progress. As individuals, family members, and shareholders in communities, the use of our creative energy aimed at better tomorrows is self renewing, in that it allows us to slip the bonds of earth and soar to the heights of our hopes and dreams.
What can be done?
Go Your Own Way
The Ashland Bakery and Cafe in southern Oregon used to use the slogan ‘ Life is short. Eat dessert first!’ It was a potent message to stop waiting and get on with the good stuff in life! You can break the ‘always the same way’ habit, and go a different way, even if it is the longer way, just for the sake of curiosity! Take a road less traveled, one that has the same general direction as the direction you’re going, only you have no idea where it goes. Because there’s no telling what you’ll find until you’ve found it. (Warning: Do this on a full tank of gas!)
Observe yourself for the next 24 hours, and identify those areas of your life where you have been asleep at the wheel. Identify those grooves in your life that have become ruts. Where do you automate your behavior? Which section of the bookstore, library or magazine shop do you habitually visit first? Which television shows do you watch that are most conducive to your being a couch potato? Where have you stopped paying attention?
You can take any habitual behavior and break up the routine, just to see what happens. You can clear your desk each day into an empty drawer, and then start over. You can rearrange the items on the wall of your house, move kitchen items into a different cabinet arrangement, you can even get dressed in the opposite order! Of course, that will require you to first determine the order in which you dress yourself. Make a list, then rework the list and see if you can get dressed in the new order without backsliding to the tried and true!
Ready Fire Aim
Too much planning destroys spontaneity and interferes with creative thinking. There is much to be said for taking action, and taking it NOW instead of later. Any thing that you have to sit around thinking about, planning, budgeting for, organizing to create, chances are that it will lack the thrust needed to overcome the inertia built into your system. The fact is that it takes more power and energy for lift off and clearing the earth’s gravitational pull than it does to navigate around the planet for a million miles and return safely to earth. Lacking an inviting target, sometimes pushing yourself forward anyway is enough to get events moving and increase the range of objects in your radar! There is a kind of momentum that accrues when one suddenly changes careers, moves to a new town, adopts a child, or starts a new painting.
Some people are chronically stuck in second gear, others keep the pedal to the metal at all times. Sometimes all that’s needed is to shift the gears in order to break free of the traction of habitual living. Finding opportunities for alternate rhythms is an excellent way to get your life force moving. When you’ve been rushing all day, a slow walk helps you regain your balance. And when you’ve been putting one foot methodically in front of another all day long, you can go dancing and delight yourself with your fancy footwork. Been quiet too long? Go to the forest or the beach and let out a few yells! Been yelling to overcome a noisy backdrop? Read quietly to yourself as compensation.
Buckminster Fuller once said “Dare to be naive.” It is the limitless curiosity of a child that opens doors to new insights, that fuels their vast supply of energy, that makes it possible for them to learn and grow at such a fevered pace. A curious child doesn’t hesitate to ask ‘Why do you do that?’ or ‘Why do you do that like that?’ You too can become like the children, and keep your energy and enthusiasm alive, awake, and alert. Instead of settling for easy answers, seek to know more.
Challenge undeserved authority with your curiosity, challenge arrogance with innocence, and look for ways to make little improvements in all you do by asking yourself frequently, “Why do I do this like this?” And when you’ve found your answer, ask “Is there another way that might work even better than this?” And if it ain’t broke, as the saying goes, break it! You just may find that you’re breaking a shell that has enclosed your understanding.
Do Something Odd
Instead of trodding the familiar paths, or watching to see which way the wind will blow, you can cultivate odd hobbies, read odd stuff, engage in activities that give you new perspective. Purposefully step outside the boundaries of your former existence, become fascinated with and examine more closely those people, places and things at variance your idea of normal. Ever notice how you gravitate towards the same part of the bookstore? Go to the opposite side and read something you never would have thought of reading before! Always dial in the same radio station? Go to the opposite end of the spectrum! Do you read a newspaper daily? Try going a week without, and find other ways to find out what’s going on. That person that seems so peculiar to you? Take them to lunch, and find out how they work!
Just reading these suggestions makes little difference. Now’s the moment to make a plan, and then act on it. Because to truly invigorate yourself you must take action. Life is not a spectator sport, which means that you’ve got to get involved if you want to play your part in this awesome and awful planetary production. Whatever method(s) you choose to shake yourself free of the numbness of complacency, do it now. Because tomorrow never comes for those who wait until tomorrow for what is best done today!
Why not take a moment and tell me what you think or have learned about dealing with complacency?
Rick is a best selling author and the founder of the Art of Change Skills for Life. His book titles include, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to bring out the best in people at their worst, Life by Design and Influence and the Art of Persuasion. These days he is spending quality time away from the spotlight enjoying the company of his wife and practicing his electric guitar.