"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."
 -- Marcel Proust
Some years ago I was writing a book (long forgotten and not related to coaching).  I lived in a rural area in Connecticut and needed to check a reference source that was not easily available. I had been told that the library in the nearest town, where I did my shopping, did not have books on my somewhat specialized topic, and so did not consider checking there.

One day I was driving to the grocery, heading away from the library. This was a regular routine dry-cleaners, drug store, grocery, home. Suddenly, and totally on impulse, I changed my plans.  I U-turned and drove straight to the library.  Inside I looked for the card catalog (yes, it was that long ago!) but was headed off by an elderly volunteer who asked how she could help me.  I named the book I was seeking. She hesitated, then went to the returns counter. There, where it had been returned so recently that it had not yet been moved from the counter, was the book I sought.

The lesson?  I believe it is to avoid "chaining" our behaviors. By chaining I mean always following behavior A with behavior B and then behavior C.  If I had stuck to my usual routine, instead of being open to spontaneous change, I would have greatly delayed my writing progress. When we chain our activities, not only does life become boringly predictable, but also we prevent ourselves from being open to that quiet, voice, intuition, sudden impulse, or whatever you choose to call it, that may be based on some awareness of which we are not even fully conscious and which leads to our greater good.

I'm not saying that ALL habitual behaviors are bad.  Habits may enable us to go on "automatic pilot" while doing routine tasks, and so free the mind for more creative thought. Unfortunately they can also narrow our perceptions to a point where we forget to open them up again when the task is over. Many writers and philosophers have suggested that society encourages us to go through life semi-asleep. If we can wake up and be alert enough to respond to the impulses and impressions around us then life can become new again, and we improve our chances of finding exactly the book . . . or opportunity . . . or person . . . that represents our next step forward. If not, we may never know what opportunities we are missing.

Excerpted from Work in Progress, a free e-zine from Personal Development Coach Diana Robinson, Ph.D.
Copyright 2001 Diana Robinson, Ph.D.
How much are you bound by your routines and habits?

Do you leave yourself open to spontaneous moments?

If not, why not? What might happen if you did?

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