Hi everyone,

We’re all a bit stuck in our ways aren’t we? I say I don’t like routine but much of my life looks pretty routine to me when I think about it! Having routines and preferred ways of doing things makes us feel safe. It also allows us to function in groups, particularly in our homes and workplaces. We get to know the preferences of our loved ones and work colleagues and those preferences become normal. We function well together knowing that Amy prefers to go to lunch at 12pm because she comes in early and Steve doesn’t usually start til 10am so he’s happy lunching around 1.30pm. All good. We are considerate of each others’ preferences and that makes us happier.

At home, Steve might go for a run before work because his partner works shifts and so they want to spend their evening time together. Exercise for him is best done in the morning. Our homes and workplaces become a finely tuned balance of our preferences and so generally we feel safe and comfortable there. That’s cool. It can be a lot of preferences to fit in though if you live with a lot of people at home or work in a large team of people and that can start to create tensions. Less cool :-/

Sometimes, I think we can start to feel too safe in an environment and then become fearful of creating and embracing change. Our sub conscious mind will always work to keep us safe and so sometimes even when there are negative behaviours around us, because they’ve become normal we will stay in environments that are not very healthy for us, physically, mentally or emotionally. Because our preferences are around the minutiae of our lives (how often we like a hot drink or how we like to spend our lunch break for instance) then our worries can be around those really small things as well. If you’re moving to a new role your worries might be, “what if they don’t let people have a hot drink at their desk?”, “what if I have to go to lunch later because everyone else already has a defined slot for lunch?”.

It’s completely normal for us to have those kinds of worries which are defined brilliantly by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Our environmental (or as Maslow defined them, physiological) needs are at the very foundation of us feeling OK and being able to thrive in an environment. If you struggle with a condition like Crohn’s for instance and the toilet is 3 floors down from where you sit, that could cause you a huge amount of stress, which won’t help to ease your condition I imagine. Being sat near the toilet and having an understanding boss might be the thing that keeps you in your current role, even if you feel totally bored with what you’re doing and are capable of so much more. Our environmental needs are very important to us and may be keeping us welded to a place that we could really do with moving on from.

So if you’re thinking about change, in any environment have a think about what your environmental needs and preferences are and if there’s any way to find out if they can be met. It might be a tad excessive to ask in an interview what their hot drinks policy is but it is reasonable to ask about the office environment, flexible working arrangements, team meetings and training opportunities. Then you can see if a quick tour around the office is doable so you can avidly look for evidence of coffee cups! ? I’m making light of this but think about what your preferences are, how strongly you feel about them and how you can reassure your sub conscious that those needs will be met. It’s also worth challenging some of those preferences as they might have just become habits and you can definitely change those. I usually have a cup of coffee at 10.30am ish but my world doesn’t end if I don’t. It did feel a bit weird when I was working in an environment recently where I couldn’t have a hot drink at all but again it wasn’t the end of the world. Those are my preferences, not my cast iron needs. I think sometimes we can get the two things confused.

It is important that people’s environmental needs are met but having seen so many arguments over the temperature in the office, in both Winter and Summer, I know it’s not always an easy thing to achieve. Give and take needs to be just that. Take, take, take can get a bit tedious for the most relaxed and flexible of people! So if you’re fearful of change or stuck in a bit of a rut, either at work or at home, think about whether it’s your environmental needs that are rooting you to the spot. Maslow ordered his hierarchy of needs as physiological, safety, love and belonging, self esteem and self actualisation so if your foundations feel rocky, in terms of your environment not feeling comfortable, you might struggle to build that sense of belonging and good self esteem.

Change is good, difficult, exciting and scary but sometimes it’s worth turning the volume down on your worries and doing it anyway. At least giving it a try – that’s good for your self esteem. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll regret giving something a go and the results, whether you choose to repeat the experience again or not, will probably make you smile which is good ?

Preferences can be difficult because we all think ours are normal, which of course they are to us, but putting them together in one place can put the calmest of people at loggerheads. What’s normal to you can be completely alien to someone else. If you can find a good balance of give and take with loved ones, friends and work colleagues you’re more likely to thrive in that environment. If you’re not thriving it might be time to look around and think about how your needs could be met elsewhere. Change can be scary but generally people are kind and amenable, so dipping your toe in thoughts of change can be the first step to making that happen.

From my experience of colleagues, picking the hard skin off your feet at your desk and leaving it on the floor is not what everybody thinks of as usual office behaviour and heating up last night’s mackerel tea in the microwave which stinks out the whole place is less than helpful! But it was normal to them :-/ People baffle me! But then that’s half the fun isn’t it??!! ?

Take good care please and have a great day.

Best wishes, Karen

Email: kw.innerstrength@outlook.com