Habits are often broadly labeled as either good or bad, with little specificity. For example, people seldom refer to particular customs as obstructionistic or limiting. I propose, however, that some habits do indeed get in the way of growth and learning every single day.
I have heard that habits are literally grooves in the brain. Every time you repeat a task, gesture, or activity, that particular groove gets a little bit deeper, a little more ingrained. I have also read that if you want to start a habit, such as an exercise routine, you should draw a line with your finger on your head while doing that activity, as if you were helping to push that groove deeper.
These concepts fascinate me on so many levels, because I would also classify daily routines and mannerisms as habitual—things so deeply-rooted they become second nature. Think of your favorite actor. Often times you recognize that person on screen, even if they are disguised in elaborate costumes, because of their particular mannerisms that they can not escape even when they actually become another character.
Or how about some of the routines that you follow every day? One reason we establish daily procedures is to create our own little comfort zones; if we do the same thing at the same time, in the same way, every day there is little chance for surprise or discomfort. To put it quite plainly, we humans fear change. We don't even like creating a space in our routine where change could possibly happen.
Now I would like to introduce a conundrum that often escapes our notice as we dig ourselves deeper into the layers of our cozy routines: If we are at all curious about the world around us, if we want to experience learning opportunities, and if we want to grow, we can not avoid change. Learning, growing, and, yes, living can all be described as some form of change.
I invite you to examine—and scrutinize—your daily rituals to determine which of these are no longer useful. You may, in fact, discover that some of these rituals have actually become ruts, limiting your creativity and natural wonder. This exercise opens space within your life, so you can welcome the possibilities for positive change. By exploring the new, you are only increasing the number of potential options you have to choose from.
Be brave, step out from behind that protective screen of dull outgrown routine and embrace all of the uncertainty, surprises, and opportunities heading your way --- right now.
I have been inspired, in the past few weeks, by people who have taken charge of their lives, their educations, and their physical well-being. These particular folks are fierce in their desire to honor and know themselves, however, their intent is not based on committing violence or simply getting their way; they all promote positivity and action by jubilantly supporting free-will and independence.
Many of these admirable people have recently decided that it was time to stand up and take back their power after encountering bullies of all shapes, sizes, and forms. These actions have required strength and fortitude, because a bully is someone who will manipulate and intimidate people and situations in whatever way they deem necessary to get their desired outcome.
If you want to have an active and socially involved life it is nearly impossible to avoid bullies; because, they often hide behind positions of respectability and honor and they seldom look or behave like thugs or miscreants. They use words and actions that are subtle with hidden motives to coerce, influence, or control. It all appears, oh so, polite, pleasant and completely above board.
I will contend, nevertheless, that this type of bullying is sometimes more dangerous than obvious physical violence and harassment. These people can sound so reasonable and make such a great case for why you should do or say what they are promoting. And, lets face it, you would be unreasonable not to cooperate, right?
Taking back your individual power has to begin with the recognition that you are being unfairly influenced and manipulated in the first place. This can be downright scary, because your sensibility can be called into question (are you crazy?) and you are often up against an idea or institution that is socially and culturally accepted.
Facing down a bully can be as simple as smiling and standing up for your ideas and rights with grace and dignity. No name calling, bad language, pushing, or shoving is required. Watch this fantastic video to see how a teenager was able to turn his life around by being nice.
It also means that you are now responsible for your decisions. You can no longer make excuses or blame anyone else for your mistakes and goof-ups, and, no one else gets credit for the things that turn out amazing, because you own them all: good, fantastic, silly, unwise, plain old bad, or ….
Once you understand that you are truly in charge of your life choices, you will feel more powerful, and the laws of attraction will kick in; the good will and positivity you send into the world will be reflected back to you in an abundance of acceptance and love.
How many times have you made a colossal blunder and wished you could turn back time, just ten seconds or so, to erase that mistake or mishap? The following story, is a follow up to last weeks post, A Celebration of Curiosity, and reminds us that those errors are often a necessary part of the creative process.
This past Friday afternoon, I was craving something sweet and sour for dessert. Whenever I have that particular desire, I go to the tried and true lemon curd recipe in my much loved, battle scarred, and stained Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. It offers that sugary and tart taste that always satisfies my yens. I had forgotten that we had run out of the good organic lemon juice, but we had key lime juice from the same company, so I decided to use that in the lemon curd recipe. I have done it before and it was just as tasty.
I have made this particular recipe dozens of times; I didn't realize, however, that I had made an error until I added the key lime juice and discovered a mini science experiment going on in my stainless steel saucepan. In that moment of head scratching surprise, I realized that for some reason I had grabbed the container of baking powder instead of the cornstarch to mix into the sugar (all I can figure is they both have blue lids). After tasting it, I figured, “no harm, it'll be fine.” So, I made the key lime curd, and as you probably guessed, it was inedible. As someone who has a propensity for making mistakes and who hates to waste, I decided to keep my disastrous dessert and use it to make something else. It had all the basic ingredients for any kind of baked good---eggs, sugar, butter, baking powder, and … key-lime juice.
This morning, I wanted to make my delicious oat-flour pancakes. When, I opened the fridge, that bowl of lime curd was sitting front and center staring right at me. I thought, “what to heck, how about--- key lime pancakes?!” So I mixed together the oat flour, brown rice flour and a bit more baking powder, added the pudding and milk and stirred it together. Then realized I always add some kind of spice to my pancake batter and threw in a ½ teaspoon of ground ginger. You would think I would be a bit less daring considering the previous disaster, however some of my greatest culinary accomplishments come from throwing caution to the wind.
I would like to say, those were possibly the best pancakes I have ever made! Light and fluffy, tart and sweet, a bit of heat from the ginger, crispy on the outside--- amazing!
While eating my pancakes and considering how I had created something yummy from something completely inedible, this thought popped into my head: When you are open to seeing each of those mistakes you make in your lifetime as just one step in creating something awesome, you are more likely to be daring and open to exploration.
I would hazard to say that most of the world's best inventions were born from a calamitous first or second steps. The difference between those great thinkers and most of us was their willingness to embrace the disasters, learn from their mistakes, and stick with it until the end.
Offering the space and time for kids to explore, experiment, create, fail, and recover is a necessary and absolutely vital part of any educational program. Providing these opportunities allows children to discover the intrinsic joys of learning without the external feedback of punishment or rewards. Not only are they learning directly from the errors, they are using the results to create something to be proud of.
After writing this, I checked my email and discovered this post from Seth Godin. It happens quite often that the things I am thinking and writing about show up in some form in his Blog.
"But how can you be sure?"
100% certainty is not a variation of 96% or even 99%. It's a totally different category.
Certainty is binary, yes or no. The question, "are you sure it will work" is not about the work, it's about the sure. If you need to know that it's going to work, then you've committed to a very clear path. Some people go to work or school and do nothing except the things that they are sure about.
The other path is to do things that might not work. Work, projects designed to land on the spectrum of not sure.
When someone asks, "Do you have any case studies and rules of thumb from my industry about how someone in precisely the same circumstances did x and got y," it's pretty clear that they seek reassurance and a promise of certainty.
But all the good stuff comes from leaping. From doing the things that might not work.
Adrian Williams is an herbalist living in Canton. Learn about his plant-based offerings at birchleafbotanicals.com. He also works at Nature’s Storehouse, a natural food, supplement, and herb shop located on Main Street in Canton.
It was early afternoon on a chilly Saturday this past February – to be fair, almost every day in February was chilly – and a group of herbal enthusiasts stood crowded around a table at Deep Root.
We had just finished a class on herbal approaches to digestive health. The participants – ranging in age from early adulthood to past retirement – were putting together their own herbal concoctions. Ideas and questions were bubbling. Should I use cinnamon or citrus peel? Go with the milder burdock or the crazy bitter gentian? Students chose the herbs most suited to their constitution, applying what they had just learned with creativity, curiosity, and excitement. They would take their formulas home and put them to use in the weeks to come.
This class and three others like it were sponsored by Nature’s Storehouse this winter and spring. Although the classes were geared toward adults, it was apt that we held them at Deep Root, a community resource that encourages and fosters self-directed learning and following the lead of one’s curiosity.
Using herbs for health and healing was the focus of the class series. Folks came to learn about plants and together we explored ways to redefine health not as mere absence of disease but rather as an abundance of energy, vitality and spirit. At each class the spark of excitement was evident as folks learned about herbs, made connections to the plant world, and discovered how to apply the new-found knowledge in their own lives.
It is also exciting to see the energy and positive results that happen when community organizations work together for the benefit of all. In this case, Nature’s Storehouse, located a few doors down from Deep Root, wanted to offer classes to the public but lacked a classroom space. Maria and Deep Root stepped in and generously offered to let us use their space, which proved to be just the right size.
The herbal approaches to wellness class series was well attended and – to judge by the enthusiasm of participants – a considerable success. With a bit of luck we’ll be offering more classes at Deep Root in the near future.
Where do artistic, imaginative, or inventive ideas come from? For that matter, why does one particular concept spark interest in one person and leave another completely bored?
Curiosity, I believe, provides a root answer to both questions. If a person is inquisitive about the world, they see a plethora of opportunities to ask questions. When they are comfortable inquiring about phenomenon they observe, it automatically and exponentially increases the possibility for learning and engagement. Once engaged, their creative mind is unleashed; they then feel at ease interacting and inventing within that world that they have expressed wonder about.
Creativity comes from the exploration and examination of personal thoughts and ideas based on an understanding and knowledge of the world around us. It is hands on, experimental, and quite often messy. Because, the only way to really learn something, for life, is to just do it.
Think about a child sitting happily in a mud puddle, splashing and playing with a twig and leaf boat. Or, a child standing on a stool in a kitchen peeling and slicing an apple as they help Grandpa make a pie. How about the girl who decides she wants to learn how to weld, and asks to apprentice in a welding shop. Or, the boy who thinks chemical reactions are beyond amazing and sets up his own chemistry lab in the garage. These are experiences that inform all those questions just waiting on the tip of every child's tongue and the ones that will stay with those kids for a lifetime.
Join me in honoring the people, environments, places and spaces, who celebrate curiosity, that fundamental point where all self-directed, student-centered learning begins. Congratulate the person who sat patiently, listened to a child's questions and offered a variety of paths for that student to explore and find the answers, instead of simply providing the solution. Compliment the facility that provides access to tools of all kinds, to all ages. Thank your librarian, local artist, and other professionals in your community who share their talents and knowledge with others.
By showing appreciation for those who understand that fostering curiosity is the building block to producing whole, creative, imaginative, inventive kids, we are in actuality supporting a vibrant, healthy, whole community for those children to grow up in, and they will in turn model those same experiences for the next generation of youth.