The case for randomizing our lives

There’s something to be said for routine. Take a generalized work week as an example. For many, it’s the classic: wake up, get ready for work, go to work, work, come home from work, (insert post work activity of choice – hit the gym, family dinner, socialize with friends, etc.) go to bed and repeat.

For the most part, it’s predictable. It’s comfortable. It’s efficient – you’ve got it down to a science after all! There are very sound rational and evolutionary reasons behind why humans crave routine, benefit from routine and how routine action and thought form the structure of our lives.

But how do we know when things become too routine? Routine to the point that we risk becoming immune to change, stagnant in our professional and personal lives and lose our tolerance for getting uncomfortable?

Finding the right balance between routine and randomness is no easy feat which is why I am using this article as a means to explore the phenomenon.

What does it mean to randomize my life?

Humans have a tendency to create and live in bubbles. Ideally, the bubbles we create are comfortable, efficient and somewhat predictable, so why venture outside of said bubble? Why change what’s already working well?

Let’s use Max Hawkins, an ex-Google engineer, as a case study.

By traditional standards, Max seemed to “have it all” given his employment status, close knit social circle and having all the perks of the Bay area lifestyle at his fingertips. Despite (clearly) being good at this thing we call life, Max still felt a void. He couldn’t necessarily name the void at first, but felt a clear disconnect from the outside world. In other words, he’d become a victim of the seemingly wonderful bubble he had created for himself.

For the ex-Google engineer, the natural solution to the problem was to create a set of apps that would randomize his life. A 2017 Inc. article shared his approach, “Max started small, with an app that integrated Uber. It started like a regular ride-hailing app: He would press a button in the app and a car would arrive. But then, a twist: He couldn’t select a drop-off location; the app would choose a spot within a range without disclosing it. The only thing the rider had to do was enjoy the journey — and hope for a good destination. From there, Max’s applications became more complex. He built an app that used a Facebook search function for public events to find ones near him. Then the app would randomly choose which event Max would attend.”

Max started to show up at events he probably otherwise never would have found or would have been willing to attend – anything from community center pancake breakfasts to showing up at a stranger’s house who was hosting a Christmas party for family and friends. Bold.

The result?  He got out of his bubble, connected with new people, better understood the outside world and ultimately filled the looming void.

So, in its simplest form, randomizing your life is really just a matter of scouting out and making space for new experiences in your daily and weekly routines – with an emphasis on activities you otherwise might not try.

What are the benefits of randomizing my life?

There are many advantages, but here a few:

-Enhances creativity: by gaining exposure to new ideas, people and places, you’ll inevitably walk away with different perspectives that you can apply to your professional and personal lives

-Fosters empathy: by forming connections with new individuals that may be of very different backgrounds than your own, you’ll have greater insight into their reality and struggles

-Increases authenticity: the more life experience we gain and confront uncomfortable situations head on, the more confident we become in living our own truth and letting people see us for who we really are

How can I randomize my life?

While Max Hawkins’ example is arguably on the more “extreme” side of the spectrum, randomizing your life doesn’t have to be a daunting task. The challenge is to find a starting point somewhere on the life randomization spectrum and work your way up. Here are a few tips to get started:

-Establish your purpose:  you first want to write your own “mission statement” for lack of a better term. State your purpose. What are you hoping to achieve from this randomization exercise and why?

-Make a list: based on your answer to the “why” behind this exercise, start to think about the types of activities (physical, mental, spiritual, etc.) that will help you achieve your stated goals. Make sure that each of the activities you list has a clear link to one of your goals. Try to estimate the amount of time involved, costs involved (if any) and the anticipated impact

-Prioritize the list: this will prevent you from getting overwhelmed. When in doubt, start small. Based on the time commitment, costs (if any), and anticipated impact, start to prioritize the list and pick the top 2-3 activities to start

-Set a timeline: hold yourself accountable! Set due dates and track your progress in your calendar, notes, or documentation method of choice

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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