Do you recognise the situation? Year after year we go to the same restaurant, because we feel so comfortable there and there aren’t any culinary “surprises”. For the same reason many people go back to the same holiday destination and the same hotel every year and, of course, always book “their” room number 24. Or we remain stuck in the same job for half of our lives because we are afraid of doing something new or we doubt whether we are good enough. We humans are creatures of habit. I too find myself repeating such behavioural patterns again and again. Habits can indeed give us a feeling of security, but often also give us a false sense of security and prevent us from taking advantage of great new opportunities. Habits inhibit changes for the better; they make us blind to the big picture.
Even though I have spent half my life grappling with the topics of change and transformation, I am not immune to the phenomenon of habit. With even the smallest, most trivial of experiences I realise how much we cling to familiar things and stubbornly shun changes. Take my last holiday, for example. For weeks I have been looking forward to my surfing holiday, staying in a hotel where I have enjoyed staying for over 10 years. I reserve the usual “room with sea view” and look forward to being back in my “second home”. Then the shock when I check in: everything is fully booked, no rooms available with a sea view. Even worse, the only available room is located in the most hideous corner of the holiday resort – with a charming view of the car park. At first I am angry, then I feel frustrated; I want to leave. The receptionist tries to calm me down as I do my utmost to make it clear to her that I wish to speak to the hotel manager. The lady recognises the seriousness of the situation; not because I am insisting on my rights, but rather she is probably afraid that in a few seconds I am going to go for her jugular. I vehemently reject her offer of an upgrade by transferring me to a neighbouring hotel of a better standard. I want only one thing: my usual room. After several minutes of heated discussion, I recognise that the alternative offered is probably the only way to turn apparent defeat into something better. So, seething with resentment, off I go to the new hotel.
Once I am there I have to admit that the upgrade is a dream come true, and I am compensated by the hotel management with many extras, for which I am not even charged. I realise, as I have done many times in my life, how stepping away from the habitual and the comfort zone – often triggered by a crisis – forces a change from the familiar and can represent a great opportunity. Because what happened to me here in a comparatively mundane situation is something I have experienced many times before. Such as when I was stuck in a boring job, sliding gradually from depression and frustration into a crisis, but, thanks to the power of letting go, new and unimagined possibilities emerged. For me this holiday was further confirmation of a universal law of life: every crisis, every disruption is a polite call from life to step out of the comfort zone in order to change a familiar situation and get something better. We just have to listen, to understand and ultimately to take the appropriate action.