Are you in a rut? Are you going through life limiting your contacts to the same narrow group of people each day? Are you restricting your activities to the same routine you followed yesterday and all the yesterdays before that? Maybe it’s time to try a different approach.
The definition of being in a rut is getting stuck in “a habit or a pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive.” And while changing that habit or behavior can be difficult, it can be done. Take this anecdote about Bobby Fischer who was one of the greatest chess players of all time (before descending into mental illness).
Fischer was an American chess prodigy who in 1972 was invited to play for the World Chess Championship against Boris Spassky of Russia. Both Fischer and Spassky had played in hundreds of competitions and detailed records were kept of the moves each player had made in previous matches. Fischer had even published a book titled My 60 Memorable Games.
While Fisher was an unrivaled chess player in the U.S., there was one flaw in his game. For his entire chess-playing life, he had started every game in one of 3 or 4 different but predictable ways. Up to this point, it hadn’t been an issue. Fischer was so good that even if his opponent knew his opening salvo of moves, he could still win–but playing Spassky was a different story.
When Fischer opened the first game against Spassky, the Russian was ready. He had studied every match Fischer had ever played and knew how to beat him. He had done so over and over again versus practice opponents who mimicked Fisher’s style of play. Then, a funny thing happened.
Fischer made his opening series of moves and they were different from any game he had ever played in the past. He did the same thing in the next game and the game after that. A shocked Spassky was unprepared for this new approach and Fischer went on to win or tie 16 of 19 games and claim the world championship.
What’s this got to do with life? Plenty. Fischer had played the same way, making the same moves, day in and day out, year after year. Much like we may make the same “moves” each day in our own lives, doing nothing to break out of routines that can grow dull and monotonous. What if starting today we tried something new?
- What if instead of giving our spouse a morning peck on the cheek, we gave him or her a big wet kiss on the lips?
- What if we took a longer, more scenic route to work, maybe stopped in a new coffee shop?
- What if instead of passing by the neighbor or co-worker we don’t really know, we stopped to say hello and have a quick chat?
- What if we reached out to the old friend we haven’t seen for a while and met for lunch or a drink?
- What if instead of turning on the television set or burying ourselves in our phones at night, we went for a walk or went outside and looked up at the stars?
These seemingly small acts have the ability to change our world and connect us with new sights, new activities, new people, and can sometimes reconnect us. They freshen our perspective on life and our place in it and have the power to bring us recurring small doses of joy.
Especially important is our connection to the people who make up our universe. The wise John Templeton believed that we all have our own “personal ministry” and the success of our lives on this planet is linked to how we interact with those around us. How do we connect with those we encounter each day? What type of messages or signals do we give them? Do we offer them recognition or make them feel special in some way?
What small move will you make today? How will you shake up your status quo?