How a New England Road Trip Taught Me to Embrace the Unexpected

Do you experience life as a one way journey or as a cycle ?

Recently, I was driving around New England on a beautiful fall day. Since I have an excellent memory for places, I remembered the road and the landmarks, and was incessantly telling my traveling companions what was coming ahead – in a little bit, we will see this restaurant, this turn, and so on.

It was like I was repeating my past trip, not participating in this one.

Covering (literally) familiar ground, I fell back into the comfortable habit of only paying attention to what I knew. But this trip was a wholly new experience. Or was it?

When I do something I’ve already done, I pay less attention.

There are all sorts of neurological energy-saving advantages to selective attention . But it comes at a cost. When I’m in a familiar place – or, say, with a coaching client that I know well – my brain automatically falls back to prior experience. These brain shortcuts are super helpful for finding the Dunkin Donuts on route 9, but can take you away from what’s actually happening.

The alternative is to treat every situation like it is new.

On the trip, I used the brilliant fall colors as a focus to keep my attention on what I saw, not what I expected to see. Just as with my coaching clients, I set an intention to treat each session like it’s a new experience, a road I’ve never driven on before.

What can you see as new today?

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