Two quotes that I’ve saved from the Jack’s Winning Words blog just seemed to fit together this morning.
“How do you tell a rut from a tradition?” (Fr Don Talafous)
“Life is a lot like jazz. It’s best when you improvise.” (George Gershwin)
Ruts occur in life all the time. One gets comfortable going to the same places, doing the same things and seeing the same people all the time. It’s not tradition, it’s a rut. Even beloved traditions can become things in which you find yourself just going through the motions, not really enjoying it; but, hey, it’s a tradition. Holidays can be like that. Even small things like gong out to eat can become ruts, when you restrict yourself to a small set of places that you “always go to on weekend.” I suspect that the answer to the question about how to tell if you’re in a rut rather than just following tradition is that ruts have no passion – there is no real enthusiasm in being in them.
Heeding Gershwin’s advice to improvise is the best way to break out of the ruts in your life. Improvising means trying something new, going someplace new or interacting with someone new. The phrase “getting out of your comfort zone” accurately describes what is likely to happen when you improvise. The sense of danger or discomfort in a new experience immediately heightens the enjoyment.
Trying a new restaurant or going to a new store or maybe trying a new sport are all ways to improvise; but, perhaps the most impactful is meeting new people. The other ways of improvising are mostly passive in nature – you mostly just experience them. That’s not a bad thing and experiencing them does add to your store of knowledge; however, you don’t really interact with them, you just experience them. Meeting new people forces you into an interactive mode and may immediately challenge some of the ruts (pre-conceived notions, or stereotypes, or prejudices) that have been dictating your life.
Of greatest impact to get you out of your ruts is meeting new people who are dramatically different from you. Meeting people of different races, ethnic groups or sexual preferences exposes you to points of view that may be very different from yours and forces you to consider those differences. Improvising by meeting new people from different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs will also expose to you some of your own prejudices and hopefully cause you to reexamine and debunk them.
When a Jazz musician takes off on a riff he/she may not know where they will end up; they just know that they are enjoying the moment by improvising. The result is new and beautiful music. Life can be like that too. Improvise and enjoy the moment. You may discover that the new relationships that you form on those moments make beautiful music in your life. Get out of your ruts and improvise. You’ll have the best times of your life and maybe make new friends.