The other day, I was at Trader Joe’s doing our weekly grocery shopping.
Even though we’re a household of two humans, the cart was packed with all sorts of goodies, from fresh fruit to frozen vegetables and all the refrigerated items in between.
I was so proud because it wasn’t even on my list to go to the grocery store until the weekend, but an unexpected gap in my schedule allowed me to cross this to-do off a day early. Woot!
And then it happened.
I wheeled the cart over to my car in the 90 degree heat and click.
I clicked again.
I kept hitting the button on my key fob to open the trunk lock and nothing. No clicks, no pops.
I was freaking locked out of my own car.
I stepped back to make sure that I was indeed at the right car. Hey, stranger things can happen.
Nope, right car. No open doors.
Panic started creeping in at this point.
What would I do with this cart full of groceries that’re already melting in the blazing hot sun?
Should I go back in the store and say, “Excuse me – can you store this whole cart of groceries in someone in your nice and tidy store while I figure out how the heck to get into my car”?
My anxiety was quickly followed by an idea – call my husband, who’s an ace with all things mechanical, automotive, technical.
So I dialed him up and said, “Hey hun, I’m at Trader Joe’s. Can you please drive over and bring me your key for my car?”
Very confused, he wanted to know a bit more about my request. Had I lost my key? Or perhaps my mind?
“Well, I have this cart full of melting groceries. And it’s fiery hot out. And I can’t get into the car. The key isn’t working. What do I do?”
“Did you try to put the key in the door?” he lovingly said, without a hint of sarcasm.
FACE PALM. Silence.
“Put the key in the door and turn – you’ll be fine,” this time with a smidge of mockery in his tone.
But I was fully in my panic still and asked him to wait on the line while I tried it. Because I didn’t trust the stinking key was actually going to work.
I walked to the driver’s side door, stuck the key in, turned and BOOM. The heavens opened. My problem was solved.
I haven’t had to stick an actual key in a real car door in over 15 years. It’s become so ingrained to click a button to lock and unlock any car that it felt like the only option available to me.
I had gotten so used to a very specific process that it became almost unconscious.
And when it didn’t work, I couldn’t think my way to a solution.
So why am I sharing this slightly humiliating story with you?
Because from my embarrassment, came two important lessons on creative thinking:
1. When it comes to following the same, proven path to execute an activity, it’s okay to deliberately pause from time to time to think outside the box. Ask yourself, how else could this be done on a regular basis?
It might be that you stay the course, but the intentional step of checking what you are doing will keep the action from being rote. And build your creative thinking muscles.
2. When you aren’t able to break yourself out of the habit to see what the other paths might look like, go to someone else. Use your voice and ask for help in seeing those other possibilities. Get someone else to help you think outside the box. You never know where that conversation might lead.
Take a moment to pause and check in with yourself.
– What has become routine that you might not be consciously choosing it anymore?
– Where is there room to freshen it up?
Share below – I can’t wait to hear from you.
Photo by Evelyn Paris on Unsplash