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After spending some time in London, we prepared to head back to Australia. While packing, my wife had an envelope with a little surprise in it. An early birthday present! She gave me tickets to attend a “Men’s Rites of Passage” camp in California. I would spend five days in the rugged, dusty hills close to the Mexican border. In truth, I was completely thrilled. 

At the start of the camp, I arrived way out in the desert, surrounded by orange sand and puffs of sagebrush. Coyotes howled at night and scorpions crawled around us. I couldn’t peel my eyes away from the unforgiving, but beautiful, terrain. Among all that alien beauty, I had a deep personal breakthrough. 

I found a love deep within myself, one I did not know existed there. For the first time, I felt totally secure in who I was and my capabilities. I felt at peace. Things seemed to weigh less heavily on me because I had the confidence that I would be able to work any situation out. My stress level lowered drastically as I focused on being more present in the world. I held a universal love for those around me. Hearing people talk had taken on a whole new color and suddenly I could talk for hours to anyone willing to listen. The world seemed so different and curious. I never wanted to stop looking at it. 

I will never forget that experience.

In fact, I changed so much at the camp that when I came home to my wife, she grieved, not in the traditional way, and not because she was unhappy. But parts of me appeared so fundamentally different she couldn’t recognize them. We found ourselves tripping up in conversation because I didn’t say something she thought I would. I had become alien to her. It took time for her to learn how I now viewed the world. 

 

I couldn’t stop smiling at everything in the world for the next three months. Even difficult problems felt easier to handle. I felt lighter. My breath came easier. I could stand on my own two feet and I knew who I was. I had experienced a change I didn’t even know I was capable of experiencing. 

Change of Place, Change of Perspective

Today, I wonder if I could have found this security and self-love without that camp. Sure, I could have learned the principles from a book, a speaker, or maybe even a podcast. But for me, the environment made the biggest difference. After all, don’t some of the best artists make a habit of changing their environment? Painters go to a new and beautiful location. Writers go to coffee shops. Portrait artists sit in a crowd and draw whatever catches their eye. The newness of the situation sparks our imagination and makes us look closer at the world. 

You see, we get stuck in routine. Day after day, we get up, get ready, make our way to work, and begin the repetitive tasks our jobs require. Some of our jobs may have less redundancy than others, but every job runs in cycles. 

As we walk through these patterns, we look at the same potted plant, walk the same route, look at that same painting in the hallway, and sit in the same seat. We become stagnant with routine. We feel safe, and in that safety we often stop paying close attention as our actions become more robotic. I would even argue that our creativity takes a steep dive. But as we continually do the same things, our minds crave something new. Things we once loved now feel boring. The effects of routine block growth, especially when it puts you in a mindset where you don’t feel truly awake. 

Changing my environment meant I saw something new. My mind went on instant alert. My lizard brain constantly checked if I was safe. I no longer looked at that same fake plant or familiar painting. I was no longer in an environment where I could afford to not pay attention. 

So my brain went into overdrive. I was present in everything. I smelled the dry air, felt the red dust collecting on my fingertips. My eyes caught the movement of animals and bugs skittering around us. I was present—more present than I had been in a while. And that presence allowed me to soak up more of what we were taught. It certainly made me pay attention more than I would have if I was listening to a podcast about these lessons while I drove, or read a book on the subject. 

The new environment made me sit up and pay attention

How can you change your environment to achieve a breakthrough?

I share this with you because I want you to realize how much of a difference changing your location can make. Whether you want to work more creatively, work out a frustrating problem, generate a new idea, or do some self work, you can give your body that jolt of a new place to help your brain stand up and pay attention. 

What do you struggle with? You will find more success in your professional career if you recognize when you need to change your environment. This time usually comes when you need to see another perspective but can’t quite seem to grasp it, or you have a problem which seems insurmountable. If you feel unsure about where to go or what to do, I recommend changing your location in order to find a breakthrough. Even better, go somewhere beautiful that causes you to marvel at your surroundings. Then, watch for the difference it makes.