Growing up in a large family meant things often didn’t go as planned. We lived in beautiful chaos, which helped birth one of my best traits: adaptability.
All my life, going with the flow has been my default. Life rarely goes the way you think it will or should, so I’ve learned to keep expectations low. The less I anticipate from an event or experience, the lower the chances are that I’ll be disappointed by how it actually turns out.
For a long time, I saw my flexibility as my greatest weapon. But then I got older and had more life to look back on. I realized that what I had labeled as flexibility was actually disengagement. Life had been flowing around me while I kept getting stuck. Rather than actively pushing myself along, I waited passively for something to run into my inner tube so I could catch the current again.
I was reminded of this revelation while listening to this week’s podcast episode, featuring Madeleine Dore, author of “I Didn’t Do the Thing Today.” On her own podcast, Madeleine talks about her weekly rut and routine. A routine is something that has rhythm, something you’re using to work yourself out of a rut.
A rut can be anything that you feel you’re stumbling over or feeling stuck in. Though we typically think of these things as negative, they can show you that something isn’t working in your life.
If you’re curious about what led you to the rut and what you need to change to get out of it, you can learn a lot from it.
During the episode, the team talked about using a go-with-the-flow attitude to balance routines that do more harm than good. This approach is a great way to break out of the shoulds of life, but it can also tip over into inertia. In my life, that’s when it became its own kind of rut.
More troubling, I realized that my disengagement had corrupted my true adaptability. It was easy to adjust to changes that fit within the flow I’d become comfortable with. When faced with a big decision or life change, however, I panicked. I started looking for obstacles so I wouldn’t have to face any of the unknowns around the bend.
But then I started listening to myself. I paid attention to how I was feeling and what I could do to build an engaged, fulfilling life. I started counseling, engaged with my emotions, and slowly pushed myself out of the inertia I’d mired in.
Most importantly? I got curious.
Curiosity has come up a lot this season. It’s something that, with Google and social media at our fingertips, I think we’ve lost sight of in our world.
As Madeleine mentioned though, curiosity is the first step to understanding what we want to change. It reveals what we’re struggling with and why. Curiosity shows us how to make small changes that have big results.
For some, myself included, that might mean being curious about your emotions. Rather than suppressing the things you feel, give them space and listen to what they’re saying. Let emotions guide your curiosity about what you want from life and how you can achieve it. If you want to find your own way of being in the world, you first need to know what you’re looking for.
Even in your “absorption season,” when you’re giving yourself rest and time to soak things up rather than squeezing results out, curiosity can prevent inertia. Or, as Madeleine put it, getting soggy.
Be curious about what you’re soaking in and why. Reading or listening to a book may be just as restful as re-watching your favorite show, but you can learn so much more through what you absorb from it.
While you don’t have to have a “what’s next” on the horizon, intentional absorption can lead you to a happier and healthier place in any season of life.
No matter where you are on your journey, I hope you’ll continue to be curious about where you’re going and what led you here. Go back to the things that excited you as a child to find inspiration. Dream about the goals you have for the future. But never, never stop engaging and learning along the way.
Get the full story here to learn how to find your own way of being despite life’s demands, more about periods of absorption, and tips for pursuing healthy curiosity.