Ever felt stuck in a routine? I know I do, sometimes I feel that I’m stuck and I have no options left to do anything else and thus I end up being “bored”. The Germans have a word for this: Einstellung.
Einstellung means installation and the Einstellung Effect refers to a person’s predisposition to act or to solve a problem using the same way even though there are other options. This effect seems to be common among all segments people without any regard to IQ, age, sex.
People adopt routines for different reasons. Autistic persons have an innate ability to develop routines and rituals which gives them a sense of structure and order and makes it easier for them to cope with the difficulty of making sense of their surroundings, other people develop routines (addictions) which gives them a kick of dopamines and makes them feel good, others develop routines to have a better sense of control over their lives.
In the self-improvement literature the ability to develop routines is strongly encouraged. You need 20-30 days of daily repetitions in order to develop a habit. The brain has a propriety called neuroplasticity and every time you repeat a routine the neural network that the brain creates for that routine gets stronger and stronger – the myelin sheath that covers the neuron synapses gets stronger – so that after day 30 it gets easier than before day 1 to get up, put your running equipment on, get out the door and start running. My feeling of einstellung comes from having various self-improvement daily routines, at the beginning is all great and novel but after months or years of doing the same thing it gets…boring.
So, how can we get out from our routines? The simple answer is just to do something different, to solve a problem using another kind of solution, to see things from a different angle.
“Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is that everything around you that you call ‘life’ was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.” Steve Jobs
For example, James Altucher has a routine called ‘The Daily Ten’. Yes, I’m giving one man’s routines as an example of getting out from your own routines. So, when you feel stuck, these are some ways you can use to get unstuck. Quoting:
10 old ideas I can make new
10 ridiculous things I would invent (e.g., the smart toilet)
10 books I can write (The Choose Yourself Guide to an Alternative Education, etc).
10 business ideas for Google/Amazon/Twitter/etc.
10 people I can send ideas to
10 podcast ideas or videos I can shoot (e.g., Lunch with James, a video podcast where I just have lunch with people over Skype and we chat)
10 industries where I can remove the middleman
10 things I disagree with that everyone else assumes is religion (college, home ownership, voting, doctors, etc.)
10 ways to take old posts of mine and make books out of them
10 people I want to be friends with (then figure out the first step to contact them)
10 things I learned yesterday
10 things I can do differently today
10 ways I can save time
10 things I learned from X, where X is someone I’ve recently spoken with or read a book by or about. I’ve written posts on this about the Beatles, Mick Jagger, Steve Jobs, Charles Bukowski, the Dalai Lama, Superman, Freakonomics, etc.
10 things I’m interested in getting better at (and then 10 ways I can get better at each one)
10 things I was interested in as a kid that might be fun to explore now (Like, maybe I can write that “Son of Dr. Strange” comic I’ve always been planning. And now I need 10 plot ideas.)
10 ways I might try to solve a problem I have This has saved me with the IRS countless times. Unfortunately, the Department of Motor Vehicles is impervious to my superpowers.
Also, you can always try and learn new things which will definetly change your daily routine and give you the cognitive tools to see things from other angles.
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
Robert A. Heinlein – Time Enough to Love