I sat on my porch this morning, feeling bored.

I’d had big plans for the day of returning to my schoolwork with renewed energy and focus, but somewhere between Sunday’s hangover and the rain that had arrived that had all faded and I was just watching the traffic go by.  To be fair, I’d written a to-do list, but it was full of inactionable items like “get life in order” and “find inspiration”.  As I sat watching the morning commute get under way, a truck caught my eye.  At first, it drew my attention because it had giant cookies plastered on its side, but my eye was held by the slogan:

“Never have an ordinary day”.

Thanks Pepperidge Farm! For some reason, when I saw that slogan, I agreed with it.  My day turned around and flew by, leaving me feeling calm and energized.  Not bad for a Monday. What did I do that made the day so different?  Practically nothing.

According to the interwebs, the slogan is part of an advertising campaign directed towards women.  Internet 1, me 0.  But if you decontextualize the slogan, it’s really good advice.  Why was my Monday heading downhill?  Because I’d seen 100 just like it, I knew what to expect, and I didn’t like what was coming.  But my day turned around when I realized that it was actually a new day.

The cynic in you may be smiling, thinking it itself, “what a hippie, obviously his expectations were intelligently constructed based on his past experience, and are a good prediction of what’s to come”.  If you think about the cynic’s comment for a moment, you’ll realize that it’s circular– that how I approach my day affects my day, and the effects are the basis for tomorrow’s model, which directs my thinking.  What am I getting at?  Karma I suppose, but that’s such a culturally misunderstood word that I loathe to dive into it.  Instead, I’ll say that we can behave in this same way, allowing our expectations to make our days boring, stuck like a goddamn TI-83 in a logical loop.  Or, we can be freshly conscious and break the loop.

That's not true, fish.

It’s what the Zennies call “Beginner’s Mind”.  For the strictly rational (not that the Zennies aren’t) who would object to my recruitment of Zen, I invite you to closely examine reality:  it is a fact that no day is “ordinary”, as we can’t define than term, and in fact, it’s true that no two moments have every been the same, so you’re a fool to think that you can predict the future.

The only way to start seeing the days roll by over and over again with the same flavor is to ignore the details and blur the edges.  We do it naturally– in avalanche science we call this heuristics, ie. rules of thumb.  You don’t approach familiar situations without preconceptions.  In avalanche territory, heuristics can get you killed, and I’m starting to think that heuristics can kill you in everyday life, or worse, make you bored and boring.

So what am I suggesting?  Well, I already ran my experiment, but I’m suggesting that you give it a try.  Tomorrow, try to recognize and discard the feelings and patterns that dominate your day and obscure what’s in front of you.  If you’re bored, take action on the chores you’re avoiding.  If you’re depressed, recognize that it’s anger without direction, and give it a direction to turn it into action.  If you’re jaded or cynical, find the small quirks and little pleasures that you’ve been ignoring in everything you do.  It takes energy, but I promise you that you wont go to bed feeling like you haven’t accomplished anything.

Advertisements