Make Way for New Learning


We are creatures who are organized by the familiar. We do so many without thinking. I open doors with my right hand. I carry my purse on my left shoulder. I fall asleep on my right side. I button shirts bottom up. I stir my tea with my right hand clockwise. I hit the first step on the stairs with my right foot. I brush my teeth top left down. Do these small things matter? You bet they do. I do everything “the right way.”

Try this:

Clasp your hands naturally. Take a moment to see what that feels like. Then shift the fingers. What do you feel? Most likely you will experience this slight shift as feeling “wrong.”

The point is that our brains get wired to register the familiar as “right” and the unfamiliar as “wrong.” Often when a new client begins therapy I suggest that they try to do some things differently. Real growth can occur when we make room for new experiences and loosen the hold that the familiar has on us.

By loosening we expand the boundaries of possibility.

If you are interested in opening your life to new possibilities you can loosen the hold that the familiar has on you. In daily, simple tasks, you can opt for doing things in an unfamiliar way. Here are some suggestions:

  • Do any routine task with your non-dominant hand.
  • Reverse processes, like buttoning and unbuttoning a shirt, putting on socks, saying grace after the meal.
  • Take a new route when driving to a familiar destination.
  • Eat a food you never ate before.
  • Change your usual seat at dinner.
  • Go to an unfamiliar neighborhood and take a walk.
  • Do something you’ve never done before—iron a dish towel, saw a piece of wood, sew on a button, plant a flower, dance by yourself in the kitchen before dinner, pay for the person standing behind you in Starbucks.


The possibilities are endless. Keep thinking of the small in-your-life things you can do differently and give them a try. The loosening of the familiar makes space for new experience and learning.

You will recognize these lines by Robert Frost from The Road Not Taken”:

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.



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