At the Risk of Doing Something New

At the Risk of Doing Something New

Listening to the TED talks almost always provokes thought. The TED talks are for me, one of the greatest benefits of the worldwide web.

In a recent talk Daniele Quercia – (Is it a coincidence that his surname is a derivative from the Latin for oak, a tree that has become a metaphor for strength and growth?) – makes a confession. He has previously used a phone app to plot the quickest and easiest route to and from work. This was very effective and he thought time-saving, particularly in a new city. So what was the problem? Why did he feel he needed to make a confession? Well, one day, inexplicably, he veered off the app route and was drawn to follow another street. This was tree-lined and had interesting houses and very little traffic. He arrived at work on time and feeling more refreshed than usual. He had had an epiphany that was to lead to some interesting studies on the habits we fall into and what we may sacrifice in the name of time.

We often fall into habits or routines: taking the same route to work, having coffee or lunch at the same café, watching the same television channels, walking along the same paths. In developing these patterns we deny our brains what they love:change and stimulation. I suspect that this is why Daniele Quercia unconsciously veered off his app route; his brain needed change.

As Daniele Quercia points out, we are so often governed by time and the desire to save it we don’t think beyond the familiar. Our phone app map may be very helpful in finding the quickest way from A to B but how much time do we really save and to what end? As Quercia found, little time is saved and we deny ourselves a more interesting and stimulating journey.

I am aware of my habits. Returning from work, particularly in summer, I pursue the same winter routine unless I make a purposeful decision to do something different such as go for a swim or a walk rather than the home-related chores that are always there and which can easily be done at another time. This is despite the knowledge that I feel infinitely more refreshed when I do break the usual routine. So why do I drift into a pattern that sustains rather than alleviates my tiredness?

This year I step into a new life. I will no longer be structured by work. As a result I will have to develop new patterns of living. I realise that it will be easy to develop a new routine that may simply mirror the previous routine because, while our brains seek difference, they also like routine. We are all subject to this dilemma.
After I heard Quercia I initially I thought that I would start to do one new thing a day but I suspect this will go the way of most New Year resolutions. So I have decided to do at least one new thing a week. Sometimes it won’t be a brand new thing but something that I have not done for some time. I am fairly sure that in doing something new, other new experiences will present themselves. As a result, I anticipate that my life will broaden, become richer and my brain will be all the more happy.

In the film Julie and Julia, an adaptation of Julie Powell’s blog and a biography of Julia Child, Julie decides to cook her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and to blog her experiences. As an exercise in writing and sharing I intend to keep whoever visits this site posted on the adventures of doing something new at least on a weekly basis.

A weekly blog? Now that will be something new!

Daniele Quercia: Happy maps: TED

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