I thought I’d share a little story today about doing things differently. I wrote about habits and routines and how I am trying to do some things the same each day. But something happened at school a bit ago that made me think about doing things in new ways.
In my teaching life, I am a big fan of routines and consistency. If you have children or work with children, you’ve probably seen the benefits of this. Kids thrive on doing the same thing over and over. Think of that “Drop-It-On-The-Floor” game that babies love. Children, and maybe all of us, like it when we know how things are going to go, when we can anticipate what will happen. Routines and consistency can also make our daily activities easier to do, because they eliminate decision making. If you decide that you’re always going to have a turkey sandwich for lunch, you don’t have to spend the energy to plan lunch each day. Some things we just put on autopilot, and then we end up doing the same things over and over. It’s how you can drive to work seemingly without thinking about it.
So, you might know that I teach first grade and my little kiddos are learning yoga this year. And a few months ago, our yoga teacher taught us a little warm-up, movement, dance-y activity called “The Shimmy.” There’s a song, we sit on the floor, we do some cute little motions to match the words. After the teacher taught us this, I would often lead the kids in doing it at different times of the day as a little movement break. We sit on the floor, sing and dance then get back to our work with renewed energy. It’s good for the body and brain! We had done it many times, when one morning, our yoga teacher was back for her weekly lesson with us and we were about to do some chair yoga. Then she said something like, “Let’s start with The Shimmy. We’ll do it standing up today.” Whaaaaaaaat?! You can do The Shimmy STANDING UP?! The kids and I had the same reaction. Almost as much as they love routine, they love to learn new things. I had never thought of doing this dance standing up though. Now, this is not rocket science. I am aware of that. But it just struck me that day how sometimes we always do the same things the same way, but there might be a different way. It’s a little example of how the familiar and the novel show up in our daily grind.
The author and blogger, Gretchen Rubin, writes about the idea of paradoxes of happiness, how we seek to control our lives through routine and habits, the familiar, but also, novelty makes us happy. She cites studies which confirm that people who do new things often have more of a feeling of well-being than those who stick with the same old, same old. So apparently, while not rocket science, there is some science to back up our excitement about the standing shimmy. The author gives examples of new things that are bigger in nature, such as traveling to a new place, and smaller novelties like learning a new game. My experience with The Shimmy certainly falls into the small change category, but it made me and the kids happy none the less. It made me think about what other tiny little things could I do differently that I’m not even thinking about. Eat at the dining room table instead of the kitchen table, arrange the patio furniture in a new way, drive a different route?
Like I said, I know this wasn’t a complicated or difficult change to make, it’s just a silly dance. But the thing was, doing it in that way, hadn’t even occurred to me. I probably would have never made that change without our teacher showing me a new way. That part made me think about how we gain from each other in small and big ways. Sometimes the kids do this thing where they get mad if another kid “copies them.” (Um, are we adults doing this too?) I don’t mean copying as in cheating on a test. I have a very passionate speech to discourage that sort of thing. What I mean is, how we get ideas from each other if we are open to sharing with each other and learning from each other. I got interested in kayaking because someone I knew kayaked, I started running because my friends run and they invited me to join them, my class and I learned a lot about yoga because this mom was willing to share her passion, knowledge and skills with us. We benefit from each other. This is how we grow and we bring each other along.
Do something a little different. Share with others. Learn from the people. Just a few nuggets of meaning that I mined from a shimmy.