Last month, I was returning home from a business meeting and found myself using the services of a shared rickshaw which is the equivalent of a shared cab.
I squeezed in along with six other passengers who were already crammed inside the rickshaw. Along the journey, I realized that most of my co-passengers were daily wage earners. Whose conversations ranged from the biggest sale in town and the juiciest gossip from the film industry to the latest trends in the job market and advise to Narendra Modi on national progress. Although non-participative at first, I gradually found myself getting involved in the discussions.
Soon, everyone started sharing struggles from their personal life. This was unusual for a corporate professional like me. But surprisingly, after a while, I found that I could empathise easily and I started sharing some of my own challenges. I felt much better opening up to a bunch of unknown co-passengers.
As we were about to reach the destination, I reflected upon my daily commute that's usually done in my car. There are no co-passengers, jokes or conversations; just phone calls from my office. I rarely exchange my phone number with anyone and almost never open up to people but in the rickshaw, I met such a lively bunch of co-passengers who had so much fun on the commute. I wished I had such company regularly.
Just then, one of my co- passengers noticed a lady in a car by the side of the road waving at our rickshaw. This was unusual for my co-passengers who couldn't figure out why a 'car owner' was interested in them. I looked out and realized that the lady was my wife. I got out of the rickshaw and, amidst the shocked looks of my co-passengers, got into the waiting car and waved them goodbye.
As I turned towards my car, I overheard the conversations in the rickshaw. The discussion was about how lucky these 'car owners' are! They don't have to suffer while commuting via public transport. Neither they get bored with stray conversations nor they have to meet different people every day - they have so much privacy.
That small change in my routine commute deepened my understanding about several aspects of life. After all, how easy is it for us to think that others are better of than us? I clearly realized the importance of developing an attitude of gratitude for what I had - there were so many who would love to live the life I did.
I also realized how a small change in my routine can develop fresh perspectives on life.
The 21st century leadership lessons focus a lot on the need to establish routines – a google search on 'routines of successful leaders' leads to half a million results of everyone from Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg to Barack Obama. While routines build good habits, they reduce the activity of the conscious parts of the brain, drastically bringing down our curiosity and innovativeness.
So are routines useful or not? It is evident that to experience life in its fullest, both professionally and personally, it is imperative to develop a fine balance between following tested routines and breaking them as often as possible. The key to breaking routines is not in taking a vacation. Rather, the balance is achieved when we break routines often in everyday life.
Here are two steps that you could use to help maintain this balance well:
Perform routine tasks in a non -routine way:
Take a different route to work, change your airline the next time you travel, dine at a restaurant you never ate at before, walk barefoot, try a new cuisine, choose a different venue for your meetings, experience an alternate mode of transport, change your routine meeting agenda – try an alternate approach to everything.
Trying something new also awakens the conscious mind and makes you a lot more aware in life. As conscious mind is linked to an improvement in emotional intelligence, creativity and productivity, this is a valuable practice to develop.
Associate with the unaccustomed:
Make it a point to stop by and consciously talk to the barista in the coffee shop, vegetable vendors, office attendants, and others in your life who you didn't notice earlier. Volunteer for a noble cause. Find opportunities to network with people you otherwise wouldn't. Their life will enrich yours and over a period of time you will inculcate an attitude of gratitude.
An added advantage of breaking routine is that your relationship skills improve and you become a better team player.
Life is like a kaleidoscope; its true beauty is enjoyed not by keeping it static but by rotating and moving it to display new perspective. Over time, the balance between breaking the routine and following tested ones will enhance your leadership skills while you enjoy the kaleidoscope of life to its fullest. Which is when you notice how the grass is actually greener on your side!
Do you have similar experiences that you can share? I'd love to hear them.