Open Your Mind: Take A Different Route

When I’m feeling uninspired, I do the same thing differently.  When I need help solving a problem, when I’m not in the mood to start important work, when I’ve got something on my mind, when I need a bit of mental stimulation, I do one thing.

I change direction.  Literally.

photo by ChodHound

photo by ChodHound

One of the most consistent and shockingly simple actions you can take to open your mind is to take a different route somewhere. Walk, drive, cycle…it doesn’t matter.  Just go a different way.  It’s simple, yet amazing.

Next time you want a mouthful of mind food, travel to campus a different way to usual.  Go home along paths you’ve not explored before.  Find another way of getting from A to B.  Even if you change just a few steps off your normal route, do it!  Make it count.

Plan a different route in advance if you like.  You don’t need to be spontaneous.  The purpose of changing direction is to see things differently.  If you go the same way, every day, you’re unlikely to be inspired by the same old views and landmarks.

As soon as you vary the journey a little, you notice new things, you appreciate it differently, and you stop treating the commute as a necessary annoyance.  Upon reaching your destination, you’re more likely to feel positive, alert, and ready to deal with whatever comes your way.

There are all sorts of variations on this:

  • Ride a bike instead of taking the bus. Changing mode of transport is just as effective;
  • Take the same route as usual, but look up instead of down at the pavement. Challenge yourself to spot things you hadn’t noticed before;
  • Make a point of studying a particular aspect of the route, like the distinguishing features on the front doors you pass, for instance;
  • Find three or four ways to get from A to B and never take the same route two days in a row;
  • Switch off your iPod. Listen to the world as you walk;
  • Switch on your iPod. Let the journey and the music be one. Listen to different types of music each day and see how it changes the way you feel;
  • Go further…walk the long way around to get somewhere. Leave more time and enjoy a leisurely walk off the beaten track. Who cares if you start off by walking away from your destination?  You’ll get there in the end!

Stuff like looking at front doors may seem a bit strange, but it’s simply to help you think differently.  You don’t have to have a reason for it.  The exercise is to stimulate your mind in a way you hadn’t been stimulating it before.

This is probably the most effective exercise I do. In the past, when I’ve been feeling bogged down, angry, confused, stuck for ideas, uninspired, or anything negative, this has been the key back to wonder.

Which direction are you headed today?


  1. Great post – changing your surroundings can be a breath of fresh air, but you don’t even have to go very far. If I want to do some brainstorming, I get up from my seat at my pc and go stand in the kitchen. I spread a big blank sheet of paper on my kitchen counter and do my thinking standing up, mooching around the kitchen and occasionally staring out of the window.

    That said, there’s a lot to be said for some moving about and getting some exercise to get the creativeness flowing too. Just getting out for a walk to nowhere in particular can give you thinking space.

    1. Good point, well made. You don’t even need to leave the house or move more than a few steps to change point of view. That’s why I don’t just write at the keyboard. I’ll also put pen to paper, jot brief notes down in a notebook, speak out loud even. It’s a change of perspective. Just moving from home computer to one on campus, or moving a laptop somewhere different, can make all the difference.

      Exercise is definitely a boon to the creative process (as well as most other processes!) and I totally agree that walking with no purpose or destination can work wonders.

      Many thanks for your comment!

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