Overriding Your Brain’s GPS for a Better Work Life
Every time I try to travel to Maine from New Jersey, my GPS sends me through New York, the Bronx to be specific. Just as bad, it sends me along the Connecticut coast on Route 15. I really don’t like that route, for several reasons. Then why does my TomTom send me that way? Likely because it’s the shortest route. How much time will I save by listening to my GPS? Well, according to Google (which also likes the Bronx) 9 minutes. Accounting for traffic, it will save 2 minutes.
Now, admittedly, my GPS is pretty old. But it acts pretty much the same as our brain works, most of the time, if we let it. It just keeps sending us to via the same old path it’s always used. That’s not always bad, and it certainly beats having to figure out how to get to point B from point A every time (especially if point B is the Bathroom), but it hampers our ability to come up with new ideas, take advantage of unseen benefits and it sucks the life out of much of the work we get done.
Setting Your Destination & Re-routing
These days, I take a bit more time to explain to my GPS that we are going via a route I specify. This makes Tommy (yes, I named my GPS. Don’t judge.) give me directions that put me on a course I like better, avoiding congestion here, enjoying coastal scenery there.
How do we do that with our brains, and what are the potential benefits?
First, we need to have a clear idea of where we’re going if we’re going to set a good course. What are you doing in your business, and, more importantly, why? Are the actions you are currently taking moving you closer to a well-defined success? If you fill out enough forms to give your boss the impression that you are productive, you will probably keep your job for a while longer. Is that, though, the extent of your desired goal in business? If you are looking to grow, either by a possible promotion at your current job, a change to a completely different company or any other goal, those forms aren’t likely your best route.
But you don’t know if you haven’t decided on your goal.
By the way, setting a goal doesn’t lock you into anything, any more than punching in a destination into your GPS obligates you to actually go there. It simply gives you something to aim for.
So, now that you’ve set your goal, why would you change your route? At least 2 reasons; 1) your current route isn’t actually taking you to your destination and 2) Your current route isn’t enjoyable.
If it’s #1, you can tell by stopping and asking yourself outright “Is what I’m doing moving me closer to where I want to be?” If not, get off that road as quickly as you can without causing damage (like quitting your job and not having a current source of income). Then, simply re-route. Take immediate action(s) that get you going towards your goal.
On the other hand (#2), you may be generally heading in the right direction, but not as quickly as you’d like, or with more “road hazards” than necessary. In this case, look to see what other roadways are available and give them a shot. Try flipping your daytime schedule so that you do the same tasks at different times of the day. Or, if you tend to take things as they come, start rigidly scheduling all of your activities, at least for a few days. Rearrange all of the items on your desk, or try a standing desk. Make sure that any new things you try don’t hamper your progress, but allow for things that get your mind out of the rut it will invariably get into and you’ll most likely find yourself with a new perspective that helps make your journey more rewarding.
Keep Checking the Map
I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep checking to see if what you are doing is moving you in the right direction. I’ve gone for miles with my GPS telling me to turn here or there, in an effort to put me back on a route I did not want to take. Your brain will do the same thing, because it’s used to that way. It feels more comfortable with the familiar, even if it’s counterproductive. Always take time to ask “Why am I doing what I’m doing right now?” If the answer doesn’t relate to your end-goal, stop immediately and re-evaluate your course.
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