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Being set in your ways means the loss of so many new experiences

This phenomenon is showing up at ridiculously younger ages

Some years ago, passing the home of a person I knew, I saw a visitor waiting at the door. Five minutes later, I noticed that the visitor was still waiting. I asked if she was okay and she replied, holding up her mobile phone, that the friend she was visiting “won’t let me in until Coronation Street is over”.

It was a memorable example of how people get into routines that they are not willing to be “put out” of.

The Coronation Street fan was an older person, but it’s a mistake to see “getting set in your ways” and not wanting to be “put out” as an attribute only of older people. Everyone might benefit from becoming more sharply aware of how this works in their own lives.

Look at how reluctant we were – and some, I suspect, still are – to get ourselves out and about after the end of the lockdowns. This might be what actor Jodie Foster, in her 60s, was talking about when she complained this year about actors in their late teens and early 20s who would show up on the set hours late because, they would say, “I’m not feeling it today”. I assume that “not feeling it” means preferring to stay in bed or on the sofa.

It’s an awfully early age at which to get set in your ways and refuse to abandon your comfy, cosy routine to get to work at whatever hour is required.

But this phenomenon is showing up at ridiculously younger ages.

I have heard people lamenting about a reluctance on the part of schoolchildren to turn up in class on days when they don’t feel up to it. I guess children have always felt that way, but today it seems to be more common and parents seem less able to do anything about it. Most recently, I’ve heard it about Australian children, but I’ve heard similar things said about children in the UK.

Looking up the Irish experience, I find that “school refusal” has been rife since the pandemic, according to Parentline, with about 60,000 children not showing up to school daily on any given day. “Many children are sick or absent with good reason. But thousands of others have simply refused to attend, despite the pleadings of their parents.”

I can understand why in many cases they would not want to leave the nest of the home, but the idea of getting so set in your ways at that stage of your life that you won’t put yourself out by going to school feels rather startling to me.

And remember the “great resignation” when people were so reluctant to put themselves out enough to return to the workplace that in some cases they just left – or went to find jobs where they could work from home? I’m not attributing all of this to people becoming set in their ways, but I believe it played a role.

Pandemic aside, how many businesses have suffered because the people running them were completely locked into “how we have always done things” and wouldn’t put themselves out to meet new challenges or to adapt to new markets and new ways?

How many marriages or other long-term relationships have stagnated because one party has become embedded in a routine and doesn’t want to put themselves out to do the different things that the other party longs for?

My point about all this and the reason why it matters is that being set in your ways, not wanting to put yourself out, means the loss of so many new experiences. Even positive new experiences can be uncomfortable at the start, but they can also open up our world.

We only live once, I think, so maybe we all need to do an audit about the extent to which we are set in our ways. Then maybe we need to pledge to allow ourselves to be “put out” more often.

Otherwise, we could be at risk of drifting into permanent lockdown.

  • Padraig O’Morain (Instagram, Twitter: @padraigomorain) is accredited by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. His books include Kindfulness - a guide to self compassion; his daily mindfulness reminder is available free by email (pomorain@yahoo.com).

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