I’ve lived in Chicago for about seven years now. When we first moved here there were a bunch of restaurants we would frequent each week. They quickly become part of our routine, a rotation of dining hotspots that we could rely on for a quick meal at a moment’s notice.
But over the past few years we’ve stopped going to many of those restaurants. The reason? Each location made too many drastic changes all at once.
For instance, there was a breakfast diner that was two blocks away from us. They had amazing breakfast sandwiches, donuts, and a hash brown to die for. Then, out of the blue, they replaced the hash brown with breakfast potatoes and got rid of the breakfast sandwich.
We tried to keep going, but a month later the walls were a different color and the potato option had changed again. What we had grown to love was being replaced with new things at a rapid pace. Evidently we weren’t the only ones that felt this way and it wasn’t long before they went out of business.
The other locations are guilty of the same thing. They changed too much too soon, with no warning whatsoever. The very reason we patronized their establishment was replaced with IMHO an inferior option.
Not all of these restaurants have closed down. Some are still open and are still adjusting their menu and decor. But we’ve stopped going there and gone in search of better places.
Our favorite spots are the ones that haven’t changed much. They feel familiar and we keep going back time after time.
I, too, have suffered from a desire to change things too often. An example:
In the early days I would update my website design monthly. It was part restlessness and part uncertainty. I tried numerous designs and was never satisfied with it. It wasn’t until I decided to choose something and stick with it that I finally understood I had been wasting valuable time.
Instead of worrying about the back-end design I focused on providing value to people: my entertainment. With the website finally in place my mind was free to work on other things and, within a month, Thursday Thoughts was a regular thing.
Of course, my desire to change things isn’t limited to my website. I hate structure and routine, in general. I despise doing things the same way I always do. I crave new experiences and new discoveries. And, in an attempt to avoid the mundane routine of daily life, I used to change my patterns every chance I could, just to keep things fresh. However, it wound up doing just the opposite.
The truth is, a routine is there to give you a framework. The familiarity of doing something the same way over and over gives you a chance to focus on what really matters. Those mundane tasks end up fading into the background and going unnoticed, and suddenly you’ve given yourself a chance to make those exciting discoveries you so desperately crave.
Take my show, for instance.
Each week, I challenge myself to write a new piece for my act. I have a long list of ideas that I want to work on so I script one out, draw stage plots, and write jokes for them. But it’s really just a creative exercise.
There’s no way I would put a new piece onstage every week. It would disrupt the flow of my existing act too much. Instead, I just keep writing and working behind the scenes so I can have a notebook of material that I’m proud of. Eventually, I find a place to perform those ideas. (This year, it’s my tour - starting next week!) But these things take time, and I don’t want to mess with the good thing I have going already: my existing show.
To be honest, I was never going to those diners for an egg sandwich. I was going for a good conversation or a business meeting with a colleague. But I ended up talking about the new table configuration or being confused with the menu. Those things should have been part of the background for my visit but they overshadowed the entire experience.
The restaurants I keep going to are better. I enter, order, eat, and leave. And I don’t even think about it. I mean, I love the food and it’s one of the main reasons I keep going back. But I’m also there to make eye contact with my wife. I’m there to catch up with an old friend. I’m there because I’ve chosen to spend my valuable time in that location. I’m not worried about bad service and I don’t get confused about the ordering process. The music isn’t drowning out my conversation and the entrance and exit are easy to find. It’s seamless.
And that’s been my approach to life the past few years: Up early, coffee, morning run, write, and then what? I don’t know. But starting my day the same way gives me the mental clarity to go in search of something different.
I won’t be changing that anytime soon.