“I work better when…”
“I don’t feel comfortable when…”
We’re so accustomed to telling ourselves, and others, things that we think to be true, that often we don’t allow ourselves the opportunity to prove ourselves wrong. To find out if something we’ve said and done for years remains true. Or, in some cases, to gauge one preference against the other to see what is more important.
I like to have a set schedule. I like going into my office around 9am, to have my desk set up the way I like it, to know that I will have my stash of Papermate Medium Blue Stick Pens handy, to know that I can get filtered water in the fridge, to have my favorite people’s faces captured in my picture frames placed atop my desk, exactly where I want them to be. I like knowing I have a change of shoes, a hairbrush, a bottle of Advil and deodorant, in case I need any of these things. I like this stability, this routine, this comfort and safety of knowing what I will expect. One of the first things I do when taking a new job is to set up my space just how I like it, for the same reason I unpack as soon as I get to a hotel room. I like making the space my own; feeling at home in it.
I’ve found that this isn’t as important as the environment itself, a fact I’ve only recently realized when finding myself in a situation that has all of those elements, but is devoid of ones that are apparently more important. I need natural light. I need conversation. I need camaraderie. It’s challenging and nearly impossible to maintain my creativity in an environment that doesn’t offer me these things, and is more frustrating and unsettling than it would be if I worked out of a shared office in a temporary desk with nothing more than my laptop. I need the physical environment and the people more than I need my things or even my routine. And finding this out shocked me.
It surprised me and made me wonder what other habits I’ve been living with, what other preferences I’ve had and operated under for years that have prevented me from learning what is really important. What have I done in relationships that have caused me to miss something fantastic? What foods haven’t I tried because I said I didn’t like them? (Answer: grapefruit and jalapeno peppers are just two I’m now obsessed with that I hadn’t tried for years.) How do our habits, and our reliance upon them, become our limitations?
So I’m trying something new. I’m working out of different spaces, only to find that the music playing in the background and the new restaurants and the conversation with people I have just met is helping keep me creative, keep me focused and making me more productive. I’m realizing that the things I have so long claimed to be important, aren’t. And the things that actually ARE? Should be. There the things that mean something. The human connections. The stuff that keeps us going.
Question yourself. Get out of your comfort zone. Do something you think you hate. You might just surprise yourself as well.