September 16. “When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge.” (Tuli Kupferberg)
Like most humans, I am a creature of habit, I tend to have a routine in my life. I get up at the same time most mornings, drive the same path to and from work daily, stop at the same Biggby for coffee. When I get home I have a routine that involves a light snack, couch time and so on. When I go to restaurants for dinner I usually order from a very short list of foods that are particular to that restaurant, I like to sit in a similar place, and love to face the door. I could go on, but you get the idea that I have a routine in my life.
That routine serves me well, as it does for most people. It allows me to work through the mundane parts of the day without too much thought, freeing my mind and energy for more important things. But, when I fall into patterns for the important things, that is when ruts can occur.
When I was doing my 100 mile walking challenge I was walking around the outer rim of the parking lot at work quite often. The parking lot is paved with black top, and along the outer edge is a very long row of spaces for cars to park. The building is about 15 years old, and the lot’s never been resurfaced. You probably aren’t aware of it, but when cars always park in the same set of spots on blacktop for a period of years, ruts form. When you are driving in and parking you don’t notice them. You get out of your car and are parallel to the rut, and you go on your way. But, when you try to walk perpendicular to the way the cars park, you find out in a hurry about the ruts. Even when there were no cars in the lot at 6:30am, I would have to alter my route around one section because the ruts were so deep. If I were to drive my car over that same area, it would be a very bumpy ride.
That is how my life can be if I let it. I can allow myself to get into those same patterns every day, and imperceptibly I will be making substantial ruts. As long as I stay in the pattern, I will be fine. But, if I try to do something that cuts across the pattern, I will find out in a hurry just how rutted I am.
I have been working on the same project for almost 5 years. And, I have been doing essentially the same job in my organization for almost 9 years, on a series of projects. As much as I may complain about the bureaucracy and politics of my organization, the fact is that I have become very comfortable in the ruts that have formed. Recently I was offered the opportunity to move to a new position, in a new organization. I accepted and will begin the transition in October. By Thanksgiving I will be completely in the new assignment. As I am preparing for the transition, I am becoming keenly aware of the ruts that have formed. I have gotten into routines for every part of my job. When my replacement is named, and I have to start to give over my work to her or him, I’ll have to describe what I do, and why I do it. The challenge in some cases will be to answer the “why” without giving saying “that’s just how we do it”. My patterns have served me well, and I have been successful. The new person will hopefully challenge some of those patterns and find new and better ways to do the job I am leaving. For my old team, new worlds will open, and new patterns will emerge.
For me it will be the same. I will be going to an organization where I have never worked, largely with people I don’t know. All of my routines, including my morning drive and coffee rituals, will be disrupted. I am sure there will be days when I feel like I am in free fall, but I can’t wait! I know that as I move into this new job I have the opportunity to have my own new worlds emerge as I bust out of my patterns.
Today my reflection is on the excitement I am starting to feel for my new assignment. I know that there will be challenges, and many difficult days. But I also know that I will have the golden opportunity to grow as a person, and as a manager.