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How do we overcome the tendency to slip back into the old routine of life - and truly capture and ACT on the lessons in talks like this?

Like many talks, there are profound thoughts shared here which no doubt resonate deeply with many people. I have experienced this feeling on many occasions and vowed to make significant changes in my life. However, all too often, I have found that after a short period of time I have fallen back into the old routine – having failed to embed the key lessons into the way I live my life.

Am I alone in this? I doubt it.
If it is a common problem, why do we do this?
What does it take to truly make a difference in ones approach to life and is it about the message or oneself?

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    Apr 24 2011: Constant changes to life, even if they are minor.

    - Heading to work? Take a different route.
    - Food? Try a new recipe, or different spices.
    - Hobby? Try it in a new location.

    Minor changes will ultimately make your life always different, and make you think differently about the world time from time. I mean you can even make just one major change in life and it will prove beneficial.

    - Join something (club, gym, martial art class, yoga, fraternity)
    - Participate in something (protest, marches)
    - Volunteer somewhere

    Honestly I feel that involving and meeting new people in your life helps you keep life in a good perspective, I mean you really get to see if you are doing good or bad only when you have others to compare yourself too.

    Find friends with different view points for amazing conversations, find friends with similar interest to perform them together, and/or even just go on a bus ride to see if you can make a sad person happy to make both your days better.

    DO SOMETHING RANDOMLY NEW when live seems to be circling in on you. Just change it up, keep it in a good perspective and bring people with you along on the journey as to have someone to talk to. Life is short make new friends everyday!

    I think people create routines because they become lazy when not challenged in life by others or themselves. But, I do not know too much about routines yet, I am still free lance in my life to what I can do. All the above information was in a book I read about how to keep the body and mind healthy for longevity and the biggest ideas were around change and the question "What is worth getting up in the morning for?"

    Those who get up in the morning out of routine and not pursuits of happiness tend to feel in a cage although life is what you make it and not what others tell you it is. In my opinion.
    • Apr 24 2011: Thank you Nicholas - some great tips here which, when combined with other responses, can make a big difference. I love your attitude.....
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        Apr 24 2011: I only hope they helped you Mick considering you are the one who was seeking advice or was this all just a topic for topic sakes?

        If so, great topic! I think it is connected with depression on some degrees. The cubicle worker jumping off the bridge and what not...
        • Apr 25 2011: Nicholas - I was seeking information, it was not a topic for topic sake. It is not that I have no idea, but am keen to see how others make the difference.

          Thanks fo your input. Much appreciated. Mick
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        Apr 25 2011: Beyond welcome
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    Apr 29 2011: Real change means action: Commit to small, concrete goals that work
    There is a well worn three-word statement, often used in new year’s resolutions, that guarantees failure to whatever task it is applied. The statement is “I will try”.
    It’s a statement about the future that by definition remains out of reach because the future remains eternally beyond the bounds of the present.
    It is a nebulous statement pregnant with escape clauses, avoidance of accountability, evasions of reason, excuses and cop-outs.
    One company uses the promise of trying harder as their motto because it sounds good on first flush and can never lead to an accusation that they did not at least try, even if they did not succeed. It is the ultimate promise of no promise.
    It has a superficial ring of a guarantee of good service. It is a vague promise of undefined intention with no actual commitment to action.
    What difference does it make to say: “I will try to work harder, be more honest, lo se weight, predict the future or spin gold out of straw”?
    Real change and success come with a commitment to well-defined, observable and measurable action.
    For example, I will eat two hundred grams less than I need to each day and this will ensure that over time I will lo se weight, albeit slowly. I will be more honest by disclosing my true motives and intentions to people, by not using company stationery, time or equipment. I will work harder by making sure that I meet goals set for me, or that I set for myself.
    It is more effective to make commitments to small, concrete goals that will accumulate and build into big accomplishments than to make grandiose statements about trying that sound marvellous and amount to nothing.
    As the saying goes from a brand that exudes an air of success — just do it.
  • Apr 27 2011: Interesting question with some good suggestions.

    I have never had a particular problem implementing change in my life, whether it was emigrating to a new country or starting another business after the first one went phht. (My two biggest challenges were to stop biting my nails and to quit smoking!) Maybe some people just naturally find change easier. But one technique I have always used, no matter whether the upcoming change is big or small, is to visulaize myself AFTER the change has occurred. "I am an ex-smoker." "I used to bite my nails." "I used to work in a cubicle for somebody else." "I am an ex-Brit." And so on. Then I just stick with that thought until it becomes reality.

    Works for me. I hope it helps someone else!
  • Apr 25 2011: I want to address your second question: why our brains operate this way ... it's a matter of evolutionary design. In order to survive, we simply cannot use our brainpower to its full capacity every waking moment of every day. If we did, we would stagnate. Instead, our brains pick up on patterns and trends, solidify them, and they become "habits". These habits free up our brain and mental energy, so that we can master increasingly more complex tasks. So ... habits are a sort of necessary byproduct of our brains capacity to multi-task and make harder / faster decisions. In short: our brain is designed for efficiency, not necessarily quality (the McGurk effect is a great example, stereotyping is another easy one, the way we can write with our eyes closed, so on and so fourth).

    Quite a few people have offered anecdotal and personal advice to combat this tendency, but I would like to view the problem as a macroscopic concern. I think one of the driving forces behind this trend is the fact that, from a very early age, we stigmatize failure in the classroom. Our students believe that being wrong is inherently a terribly quality ... in fact, the opposite is true. Being wrong is the only thing that is guaranteed to happen in a classroom. The only way to get better at anything is to accept the fact that failure is inevitable.

    By outlawing failure in our classrooms, we are systematically undermining our own capacity to take risks (which is fairly low to begin with). Instead, we ought to recognize that failure is not only acceptable, but something we ought to embrace. By embracing fallibility, we become more willing to take risks, change ourselves, come up with new ideas, and new ways of looking at the world.
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      Apr 25 2011: Hello DJ,
      Are you suggesting that failure in the educational system sets most people up for a sort of learned helplessness? That is an interesting take on this and it could be true. Learned helplessness makes it less likely that we will try again or be able to sustain any new effort. It makes us more vulnerable to any negative information or experienc.e.
      • Apr 26 2011: Hi Debra!

        You make me feel long winded ... learned helplessness is a great way to package what I'm driving at. However, it's not just failure in the educational system, but how we deal with failure within our schools that bothers me the most.

        For example, as it is now, "failing" a grade is practically irrevocable. If you fail, you will be viewed as stupid, unintelligent, completely unworthy of academic attention from your peers, teachers, etc. However, as anyone who has ever mastered anything can tell you, failure is a necessary step along the path to success ...

        ... so why are we so hesitant to tell our students they failed? Well, we wouldn't want them to think that they were anything less than super-duper-awesome at everything they do! What would happen to their self-esteem?!

        The fact of the matter is, we're not doing them any favors. We're educating generation after generation of people who simply cannot handle failure. This not only creates the sense of "learned helplessness", but (coming full circle) means they are less likely to take any new, creative risks in their lives, and more likely to rely on habits and preconceived notions.

        Long story short: failure is a good thing, and we need to treat it as such.
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          Apr 26 2011: HI DJ,
          I agree. There is so much being done to make kids fit systems rather than to make systems fit kids. While failure has its place and its purpose I really feel that we can build it into day to day learning in a way that makes it just part of life instead of a trauma. Failure as framed now is truly a social faux pas. We could, however, make complicated learning tasks into games where failure has no more significance that it does in a video game. We can teach kids complex and thereby very interesting things at their own pace in game environments so that the gifted kids fly ahead and then are forced to attempt a variety of tactics to surmount problems that do not come naturally to them while at the same time in the same game encouraging kids with intellectual challenges to shine as they try and fail and try and succeed while having fun.
          It is the stigma of not marching lock step with their peers that is the trauma and the major failure of educational systems as we know them. Few people have the same length of legs so why would be assume all kids have the same intellectual endowments and why would be ever choose a system that was not the best we could create?
    • Apr 27 2011: We fit kids to system for the simple reason that the economy requires it. School is essentially designed to be a scaled down version of the workplace and introduces children to the idea of a 9-5 goal oriented lifestyle. It maybe shortsighted but that is the reason.

      Talking of embracing failure sounds hip but is nonsense, in fact the whole discourse on pass/fail is what is the problem. You cannot talk about the merits of failure without seeing how we contextually deal with concept of passing. The critical part of this whether you desire to improve.

      The dangerous thing about embracing failure is that if applied uncritically, it breeds mediocrity. The broader point is not just that failure is a social faux-pas but that passing is seen as a social norm. In truth, we can always do better and crucially do more than we think we can. Rather than blindly embrace failure as a good thing as many people say, we need to abandon the concept of binary pass/fail and look to simply building on what we have, whatever that is.

      I would rather have a society of striving 'failures' than lazy 'passes' but you have to ask why we love to compare ourselves. Only being free from your ego will help but if you are so, then why have the concept of self-improvement?

      But to take it back to the talk, isn't one message, that life is too short to fail?
      Then you will say it depends what you call failure and ergo, why do we talk in terms of pass/fail?

      Could it be happiness = pass?
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        Apr 27 2011: Christopher, Thanks for engaging me in this discussion! I happily disagree with most of what you have said. Embracing the fact that human beings learn by a process which includes failing is simply embracing fact. Kids learn to walk by fallling down a lot. They learn everything they do by trying and failing and trying again until they get it right. If we can keep that process on track it is nothing more than a step on the way to sucess but as we present it in school systems today it is a big faux pas and a cause for shame. We can transfer the existing system into a more productive process where as in a gaming system it is just like a scientific process of tiral and error. The economy does not require it- we just have not found the way to implement a better system yet.
        • Apr 28 2011: I'm not sure what you disagree with, I don't deny there is a learning process, it is how that process is parsed into designations of success and failure. My point is, from a philosophical standpoint, if you like the concept of passing, and it is desireable then the concept of failing has to bad. If you aim to succeed, you are also by definition aiming not to fail. That is why it is a faux pas.

          Therefore, the system is already rigged to avoid failure. So, why not just go straight to focussing on the fundamental attribute and think instead of constant progression. Grading kids as a percentage increase on their previous score is one way to show progress rather than absolute achievement. The Khan academy is developing many tools to help teachers understand that kids learn in different ways, speeds and trajectories.

          Basically, you just have to redefine success as the spirit to keep trying and improving in a constructive manner.
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        Apr 28 2011: Hi Christopher! Thanks for taking the time to clarify that for me. You are right. We are far more in alignment than I first perceived.
        • Apr 28 2011: Is it possible that the education system might learn something here from business -- ie: the concept of continuous improvement, kaizen? Deming's philosophy was always that it really doesn't matter how well or poorly you did last month, the important thing is to analyze what you could have done better. For that reason he hated extrinsic motivators and targets (cf. tests in school?).
      • Apr 28 2011: "The critical part of this whether you desire to improve."

        I think this is what I should have been driving at initially, and your shift in focus improves my argument. The end goal for embracing failure is not to embrace failure just for failures sake, but to cause our students to be intrinsically motivated. In my mind, this is the biggest shortcoming for the current system of education.

        Of all the things we could possibly teach, teaching people to be motivated to learn just for the sake of learning has got to be near (if not at) the top. It ensures lifelong drive and progression. Our grading system, which uses "points" in the place of carrots on sticks, completely obliterates that inner drive ... a drive which, I must point out, all children are born with.
        • May 1 2011: The education system is peverse in the sense that it aims to an end point, the test, graduation etc. No other area of life is like this. Everything else is a continuous process.

          The stigmatisation of failure exists because there is the culture if you don't know it by the time you graduate, you will never will and worse, there is no point in finding out. Once we embrace lifelong learning, we can make progress. Currently a big motivation for learning is to pass a test so you can stop learning!
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    Apr 24 2011: After my unexpected and devastating divorce I had to use some strategies to prevent myself from curling into a ball and staying there. The most useful one was a rule that I could not say no to any invitation unless I had concrete other plans with someone else. That has led me to some great experiences- ones I would repeat and ones that just make great stories! This simple rule has opened me up to enjoy and experience more of life and of other perspectives. Its all about saying yes to life.
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      Apr 24 2011: People need people to be their distractions, sources, reflections, and/or inspirations.

      Exactly what is needed to cure any depression. Great rule, I am taking it! It would of saved me from writing so much lol.
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        Apr 25 2011: I am so pleased that it might be useful to you too!
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          Apr 25 2011: Should start a "Yes" convention Debra!

          Save people from themselves! :-P
  • May 1 2011: I was at Sendai, in Japan when the enormous earthquake occurred. Fortunately, I was safe. I was back at my country like other foreigners. One month later, I got back to Sendai to resume my master course. Getting back to Sendai excited me that I could meet my friends, but at the same time it afraided me. There weren't any results from my studying and researching and anybody who took care of me. I didn't like to slip back into myself again.
    This is my point. To change the routine of life, you need to feel deeply "I hate this life!" and accept the feeling straightforwardly. I hurt. I hate myself. I was stupid. Then I thought the small things I ever achieved and the other people who thought me as a precious one. It's not true that I have nothing. Although I don't have many things, I also have!!!!
    I try to ignore what terrifies me although that is what I want. Instead, I try to appreciate what pleases me.And I try to make effort much harder to get many small results.
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    Apr 27 2011: I can think of two obstacles that keep us from following through on good ideas that could change our lives.

    The first is that, for many of us, it’s one more thing to put on an already overfull plate on a train that's moving too fast. Stress and tension narrow our focus and push us to keep going even when we are tired and unproductive. (They also dull our senses so we don't even recognize we are tired and unproductive.) For the past 25 years, I have given my students an assignment to practice four techniques that are designed to restore balance each day for 10 consecutive days. Upon completion, they often describe significant changes in lifestyle and priorities once they slow down enough to see what direction they are headed in and choose what’s really important to them. They often report they accomplished more during that time even though they spent up to an extra hour per day working on the assignment.

    The other obstacle is seeing how, where and when we can incorporate these ideas into daily life. Habits of thought and action keep us on automatic pilot. We need to get off the train to able to see if we are on the right track. Setting aside regular time for reflection allows us to clarify what's happening, what's important, and what direction we are heading in. It allows us to identify limitations, resources and opportunities, and to choose a course of action that supports our values and priorities. It requires turning off the TV, phone, ipod or radio and being alone and silent for a few minutes.

    We have to slow down and look where we're going to be able to make a sharp turn. In sum we need to Balance and Clarify.
  • Apr 27 2011: Hello all

    This is my first contribution to this great platform.

    As myself being a personal coach, teaching "how to change and live a better life", 'knowing about and having created many theories and methods of my own' wife asks me over and over: "WHY can you KNOW all these things, but struggling with APPLYING them in your own life???".

    I must say: A fair enough question - and I have spent quite some years pondering on it myself.

    What my reflection and searching came down to is: Lacking of "self worth" and therefore "not believing, that I DO DESERVE the great outcomes from my habitual changes" and "that for me it is NOT foremost a question of techniques or change of daily patterns, but a question of an ongoing inner process of shedding my learned knowledge about 'myself' and the lack of 'worthiness of DARING to BE the best ME possible."

    If I could 'change' the system, I would teach kids from pre-kindergarden on up to university, further in adult education, that YOU MATTER and DESERVE THE does your 'neighbor'.

    Let us SEARCH OURSELVES and as a result more and more REMEMBER and REMIND each other, who WE REALLY WERE DESIGNED for at birth, and get back the REAL sense of self (which is furthest away from being conceited and arrogant).

    We need each other as mirrors, reflecting, what we personally can't see about us anymore and let us pay it forward and give the gift of being a mirror to many people as possible. So we hopefully grow in self awareness and therefore become human beings who realize their self worth....which hopefully finally leads into "YES I DO DESERVE IT (what ever the IT means to you personally).

    English not being my "native language', I was just typing from my heart.

    Let us contribute our share to this wonderful world and its inhabitants, by acknowledging that all of us are wonderfully created and meant to live a life of meaning.

    Have a wonderful day.

    • Apr 27 2011: Your remarks is profound and significant ,as you mentioned you are not a native speaker,but i think your english must be good,my mother tongue is not english ,either,and your words are resonating with heart.
  • Apr 27 2011: My tools to incorporate new lessons into my life:
    1) Review my actions and choices on a daily basis and compare them to my professed morals and priorities. This keeps them on the forefront of my memory.
    2) Discuss my changing morals and priorities with those close to me. Discussion helps clarify, solidify, and harmonize ideas. It also gives one added motivation because once the goal is stated aloud to others, someone else will be measuring your progress and your reputation is on the line!
    3) Allow myself to fail as I attempt to improve. (In oherwords, don't beat myself up for not perfectly executing the new behaviour immediately)

    Usually, my process of self-improvement takes three non-discrete steps:
    1) Recognize during my daily review that I could have done something differently/better.
    2) Recognize right after I goofed that I should have done that differently/better.
    3) Recognize BEFORE I'm about to goof that I can do this differently/better....and then choose to do it that way.

    And I have to allow myself to improve the same way the stock market increases in value - with lots of forward AND backward steps and leaps. (Essentially, do not be discouraged by the backward steps)
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    Apr 25 2011: Try try try

    A new behavior must become your new dominant response... so falling back upon old habits is very common thing (especially for people in kick-off from addictions).

    you can try cognitive behavioral therapy, feedback-loops, social control, manipulate your intrinsic and extrinsic motivation,...

    Sometimes change can be easy, sometimes it is hard...

    but I encourage you to adopting a "better" habit / better habits... (And all readers and myself)
  • Apr 24 2011: I believe it takes unity. It takes a community. I so desperately just want to quit my job as a robot in the industry that I work in and fully pursue my dream to become an actor. However, if i quit, I lack money, if I lack money, I can't eat, I can't travel, I can't focus. The Global community as a whole needs to realize that the pursuit of money in itself is whats stopping everyone from living the lives they want to live. This wasn't necessary at all for the old world ie. native americans, mayans, egyptians, africans and I personally believe that they led better lives than us. Humanity in these days was somewhat more free.
    • Apr 24 2011: Joseph - Interesting comments. Thanks. You call out some realistic downsides of taking a risk. I wonder, however, if the long time past was as good as we might sometimes imagine. for sure, on occassion there were some who had plenty to eat and decent weather. For most, health would be difficiult, life short and often brutal. The daily challenge of finding food and coping with conflict might occupy the mind so much that fun and fulfilment were rare. Even toothache would be a major issue...
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    Apr 24 2011: I engineer the change I want to see.

    I don't have the power to make massive changes in the world tomorrow, for me it comes step by step. I set myself an optimistic goal and write a list of little things that will help me realize my change. I try to cross off an item once a week (I have long lists) I call it contributing to my moral savings account, one day my list will be complete and I'll be morally wealthier for my contributions.

    If I have a goal that requires personal change (being more compassionate) I find mindfulness helps. I set myself an alarm once an hour, when the hour is up I say "What have I done to be compassionate?" It feels good to be able to say "I pumped that lady's gas for her" or "I bought a stranger a bagel when they didn't have enough money at the counter."

    Again the philosophy is step by step.
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    Apr 29 2011: Fear and Ambition.
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    Apr 27 2011: I have found the same thing happen, over and over again to me and patients and institutions.
    In my experience, we have to make a tremendous effort to change. Everything in our lives is so connected. As I see it, every part of our attitude, behaviour and expectations are part of a large net -our life style, our self-. When I have made succesfull change in my or my patient´s lives, we have had to go through a mourning process, untie the knots of the other connections as well as the one we are interested in, and endure the anxiety related with the void in the knot. This bit is sometimes rather horrible, but it does pass. It also requires faith in the process and in ourselves.
    Translated to normal every day life, if I quit smoking, it has a bio-psycho-social price. We have to work on every front, and it´s usually much more effective if we have a support group -others who are fighting the same battle or have done, others who know what it´s like to be in your shoes or who have perpective, who are innocent, and therefore still have common sense!-
    Thanks for bringing this up, it´s nice to read what everyone has to say
  • Apr 27 2011: I think you have asked an incredibly important question, and one I asked for many years of reading self help book and educating myself from a very poor working class close minded start.

    Non of these books seemed to make much difference at all!

    Then I was diagnosed with a major disease and on researching it found out that in all probability I would die unless I created change in my life! In fact I had less chance of surviving than someone who was told they had cancer!

    So here is what I learned.....

    Ask yourself the question

    "How much does this change mean to me?"

    Be honest with yourself - is this an aspiration?

    For example: As I paint by the canal bank people say to me - I wish I was artistic, I wish I had talent, I think of the many hours sat freezing my butt off at a lonely railway station drawing people walking to and from work. Do they really wish for this life? The lonliness, the hard work, the too numerous to count failures never shown in art galleries- I doubt it but they do like the idea of painting/drawing well. Its a lovely aspiration.

    So ......does your life depend on this change your considering making?

    I find most do ...or you can imagine they do...perhaps consider the notion that if you are not growing your shinking which is a kind of slow death?

    For a more positive slant on this we can flip it

    What if you actually made this risked it all and really did it, what would that actually look like, feel like, taste like, smell like? How wonderful can this be? Can you really imagine the change? Draw it, describe it to a friend, write a short story about your life then. I mean it. can you be bothered?

    When I had my diagnosis I was a incredibly unhappy man with appauling relationships, in a mundane but very responsible professional job. I had no idea of what was to happen with the diagnosis.

    I'm now an a landscape artist who keeps chickens and is learning self suffiencey - the idea is almost laughable but joyfully true.
    • Apr 27 2011: Luke - thank you for sharing this. It reads well and there is, I suspect, some very profound truths in what you say.
  • Apr 27 2011: Im definitely no expert on this. But this guys seems to be

    Its free and part of Seth Godin's new project to revolutionize the publishing industry. It helped me get a lot more focused on taking action on your ideas when they're new.
  • Apr 27 2011: You ARE the message.
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    Apr 27 2011: Hi Mick,

    I learned one (of so many) great things from yoga. My instructor once said, “When you reach a certain pose, check whether you’re breathing smoothly. If not, back off, don’t force it. But once you feel comfortable in that position, challenge yourself, go to the next level so your muscles grow.” Being comfortable can be dangerous, we get carried away and forget to move forward. We don’t grow, we go through the day.

    Great point!

    Now I’m making from the day. How? I plan the day and ask myself: who will I see (be with) today and how can I share something valuable with him/her? What will I learn from today that I don’t know before? Am I successful everyday? No. But if I ask myself these two questions before I start my day, I minimize the chance of slipping back into the old routine of life.

    All the best!
  • Apr 25 2011: First of all, I want to say sorry for my vocabulary and expressions. This one is my first commetary. I began heraring Ted Talks to learn English but now I'm really hooked on them, in special with this kind of talks that are really inspiring. I am learning lot of English but more about life. Thank you.
    • Apr 25 2011: Gemma - your written English is very good, and certainly better than many people for whom English is their mother tongue.....

      I think you have made a great choice in using TED to build your language skills. The quality of the spoken word is very high on this site, and with the translations and interactive transcript I think it is particularly beneficial to someone in your position.

      Thank you for sending me your first comment, I appreciate it. Mick
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      Apr 25 2011: Gemma! Welcome!
      You are doing a wonderful job at speaking to us in our language. Remember you are far ahead of those of us who are unable to communicate in your language.
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    Apr 25 2011: There's a great gray fog between responsibilities and living in the moment. I believe the task is to see through to each side at the same time.
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    Apr 24 2011: When asked if I was serious about pursuing my acting career and answering yes, I was told by a successful actor that I would need to pursue it with a 'Single-mindedness' For may years I did, when I allowed my discipline to wander beyond the realm of my family and my career, my career faltered.