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As I was boarding a flight from Kauai to Maui, a small Chinese boy came up from behind me squealing and shaking with delight. He pointed at my carry-on, reached in with his little hand and removed a bottle of pills. His parents were apologetic and embarrassed. As it turned out, the container he clutched was a bottle of Chinese herbs, complete with recognizable Mandarin writing. It seems as though he had zeroed in on something familiar and comforting from China.

This got me thinking how often we reach for what is known, safe and familiar in our own lives. We go to the same church pews, the same bathroom stalls, and return to the same classroom seats. Is it any wonder in the last two decades that franchises have grown at record rates? Restaurant chains alone make up 4% of our GDP. As a culture, we crave experiences that are predictable. We repeat behaviors that are known to us and eventually these behaviors become habits.

Some are positive – an exercise routine, annual vacations, daily prayer – while many are not. Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Have you ever stayed in a relationship simply because it was familiar long after it nurtured you?
  2. Are your thoughts so rigid that you’re not open to new ideas?
  3. Do you interrupt clients and co-workers assuming that what they say will be familiar?

This week, try something different. Drive a different route to work. Listen to diverse music. Eat unusual food. This will stimulate new thoughts. If you’re normally impatient try practicing patience. If you tend to be outspoken then practice restraint. If you’re quick to judge, try seeing something from the other person’s point of view.

You may even try acupuncture if you never have, and while you’re there – pick up a bottle of Chinese herbs.

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