I’ve been watching West World. Actually, my husband and I binge watched the first and second seasons after receiving the recommendation from an attorney friend in my office. I think my attorney friend selfishly wanted me to watch it concurrently with him, so he would have someone to talk to about the show. He described the series as a complete mind-bend (and I am using a euphemism). If you have seen the show, you know what I am talking about. The basic premise is that a corporation has created an immersive theme-park of sorts where guests arrive and become a part of one of several ongoing story lines. The stories are played out by artificial intelligent life-forms known as hosts. The hosts invite guests into their stories that are taking place in an American old west setting, so guests might experience a poker game in a saloon, or a gunfight, or a gold rush. You get the idea. While the guests are experiencing new stories, the hosts become caught in loops. Day after day, the guests are new, but the hosts repeat their stories. For instance, every day, the farmer’s daughter wakes up, says good morning to her father using the same phrasing, before she rides into town where she may or may not encounter a guest who engages in her story. This repetition made me think about how sometimes in my own life, I can get caught in loops and repeat certain aspects of a routine. I began to think about doing the same things day in and day out and expecting different results. Some say that is the very definition of crazy, but we all do those things. Then, I began to break down how those loops might be holding me back from achieving my desired results. Here’s what I have noticed.
Every day I drive into work the same way. I run into the same traffic, encounter the same homeless people on the street, and view the same surroundings. While I drive, I mindlessly listen to the radio, a podcast, or audio book, but my mind is not really actively engaged in driving to my destination. It is in a loop; a loop that it has executed for hundreds of days. I do not notice the beauty in my surroundings. I am not challenged by a new pathway or new way of thinking. I do not encounter any new setting or environment. I am simply pushing forward in the same old depressing routine until I arrive at my office and park in the same spot in my garage.
When I arrive at my office, I typically take the same pathway into work. I exit my car, walk through the garage to the crosswalk, cross the street, and walk into the building through the bank branch housed on the plaza level of my office. This path is the same every day. I have determined it is the shortest distance between two points. Once I get to the building, I take the elevator to my floor and travel the same pathway to my office; again, it is the shortest distance to my office. The path I walk has been carefully designed by me to lead to the least amount of walking, the fewest amount of stairs, and the least interaction with other people. Why have I set myself up in this loop? My desired outcome from life is that I make health choices for my physical and mental health. Is taking the fewest steps possible achieving that goal? Is remaining in the loop where I avoid people helping my mental health, or is it isolating behavior?
I approach my work day, often with the same negative attitude. I wonder what fresh hell awaits me as I think of how I am going to be spending the day trying to solve other people’s self-created problems. While I typically do enjoy my work and the opportunities to help good people through some of the most difficult situations in their lives, I often times feel as though the work I am doing and the effort I am putting forward to help them with their struggles is going unnoticed and that I am doing this work alone. They are, quite often, not helping themselves. I find myself saying the same things to the same clients, and hoping for different results from them. Why am I repeating those loops? Why am I not trying a different approach when one approach seems not to be working? I have found joy and fulfillment in handling situations a certain way, but that way apparently does not work for everyone. Why don’t I change for my own good and those whom I serve?
I have goals for a healthier me. I see some family members and friends older than I am struggling with different illnesses and bodies that betray their spirit. My dad is so young at heart, loves rides and attractions at Disneyland, loves to be silly and play games, but his health is declining as he struggles to control his diabetes and heart-related issues. One of my best friends could lead an army up a battlement with her audacious spirit, but her knees will have none of it. I don’t want that for myself. Yet, I very often eat the same meals, the same snacks, and drink the same beverages with the hopes that I will have different results toward my health goals. Just like the other examples I have given, these old stand-by meals and snacks are loops that are not serving my goals. Why do I keep repeating them?
There are so many more examples of how my daily life has become a series of repetitive loops if I really stop and pay attention. Now that I have an actual awareness of what I am doing, I am going to put a stop to some of those loops. I can take a different way in to the office when I drive in and actually pay attention to where I am headed. What is one or two minutes of a different turn going to make in my day? But, what new pathway will be created in my brain when I actually engage in my drive into the office? As I walk in, perhaps I will take the five minutes or so to walk around the block of the building. By doing this, I can get some extra steps in toward my goal, meet some new people, and engage in my neighborhood. I am going to check my negative attitude at the door and instead of thinking of the fresh hell of emergencies, I am going to think of them as exciting opportunities to make a difference. I have already started on my healthier meal, snack, and beverage goals by introducing foods I have never eaten before and making changes to my diet. I can continue to try new things to get out of my loop. I am not willing to be a host to a boring and repetitive life. I am going to be an active and engaged participant who meets new people, faces new challenges, and learns something new every day. I am getting out of my loop. What changes can you make to get out of your loop?