Image: A man doing a cartwheel on the beach - an example of one of the activities suggested by the algorithm to help you get out of a rut.

Stuck in a Rut? Here’s a Counterintuitive Way to Start Living Again

The “perfect” morning routine, the “optimal” work schedule, the “best” restaurants… It seems we’re always striving for ways to grow our lives around what we–or society– deem to work best. But what if all those conscious choices we make to achieve the “ideal” life were the very things keeping us from living full, exciting lives? 

Whether you’ve been recently stuck in a rut, or if you’ve long had the feeling that you’re “just living for the weekend”, we’re going to introduce you to a thought leader whose experiences breaking his routine in the most unconventional way could inspire us to live fuller, more exciting lives!

Image: A man doing a cartwheel on the beach - an example of one of the activities suggested by the algorithm to help you get out of a rut.
Source: Unsplash

Max Hawkins was living his “perfect” life in San Francisco as a software engineer for Google. He had his morning routine, his fastidious selected coffee shop, his optimized travel route, and his regular Friday plans. He had created a life perfectly tailored to his interests.

One day though, as he was reading a paper for his work about predictive analytics, his world was turned upside down. The paper explained how it was possible to predict with a high level of accuracy where a person was going or would go based on their previous GPS data. This got Max to thinking… had his life become this predictable? After some consideration, the answer was clear: yes. 

And so, Max embarked on a journey to randomize his life. It started with an app that helped him choose, at random, a place in San Francisco to visit, and he even went so far as to create a program that would randomly choose where he should live. 

Over the process of randomizing his life he realized something incredibly important about the way our preferences blind us, and keep us from seeing an entire side of the world. So, what does it look like to put your life in the hands of an algorithm to decide what’s next in life? Here’s Max from the TED stage to show us.

Via: TED 1

To see more enlightening talks from TED, subscribe to their YouTube channel or head to their website to search out their full library of talks!

What could we make of a more randomized life?

While there are benefits to having routines and habits like making healthier choices, 2 we can easily become attached to them without asking if they are still serving us and can even become limiting. One study found that our perception of time even changes when we are doing routine things. When participants were asked to recall their time spent doing non-routine things, they perceived them as taking longer than routine activities. 3 This explains why you probably recall a day of you vacation seeming so much longer and more eventful than a day spent going to work or participating in your normal habits.

My guess is that most of us can’t put our lives into the hands of an algorithm and live life like Max Hawkins, but we can take some ideas from his example. We can make time for random experiences: taking a day on the weekend to do something different or unexpected, trying a new exercise class, taking a new path to work, going to a random event in your community. We can let serendipity guide our choices: going to the farmer’s market and letting what’s in season determine this week’s dinner, saying “yes” to grabbing a drink with a friend we bump into on the street, setting aside time for a random stroll, drive, or adventure. 

The more we become conscious of the way our routines hold us back, the more we can seek out ways to flip them on their head and be open to new experiences. As Max pointed out, it’s easy to create a life that only lets us see a world we are comfortable with. So perhaps, part of our purposeful breaking of routine should be in the pursuit of some discomfort.

If you need a little more inspiration to break your routine in favor of living a longer fuller life, check out this next article. It’s one that I think of almost every day as I try to find the balance of routine and new experiences in my own life: 

The Key to Living a Longer, Fuller Life? Ditch the Routine!

Live every day you’re alive by breaking your routine. Jed Jenkins quit his job, picked up his life, and lived each day to the fullest, choosing adventure and rediscovering childlike wonder for everything new. Read on to learn a little something about the beauty of spontaneity and the amazing things that come with a willingness to do what scares you. 

Read More

Where will you find ways to break your routine and see your world with new eyes? 

If you need a little inspiration on where to get started, check out Max’s website where he’s got a few of his randomizers available for you to tinker with. Or, you can keep up with him by following him on Twitter

Whether you start with a randomized playlist on Spotify, get adventurous with your gardens this spring, or throw yourself into a new hobby, bringing a new rhythm into your life is right within your grasp. What will you try? 

Stay beautiful & keep laughing!

-Liesl

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Notes:

  1. TED. Max Hawkins: I Let Algorithms Randomize My Life … – Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKkI6-HeWXo.
  2. Arlinghaus, Katherine R, and Craig A Johnston. “The Importance of Creating Habits and Routine.” American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, SAGE Publications, 29 Dec. 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6378489/.
  3. I;, Avni-Babad D;Ritov. “Routine and the Perception of Time.” Journal of Experimental Psychology. General, U.S. National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14640847/.
Published: April 11, 2022

Image: Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

Liesl

CEO

Since 2015, Liesl has been a writer, editor, and is now the CEO at the Goodness Exchange. She is a life-long camera-toting traveler, a global story seeker, and an aspiring—but more often root-tripping—outdoor enthusiast. She can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV

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