I read somewhere that as much as 40% of what we do everyday is made up of habits. This means that almost half the time, we conveniently switch on the auto-pilot and conserve brain power: reach for the light switch, put on your shoes, grab your umbrella, feel your pockets for your keys, wallet and phone, pull the door behind you, ‘accidentally’ reach for your phone and check Facebook…
What I didn’t realize is how delicate these habits can be. For example, you may know how make a sandwich, but if you’re in someone else’s kitchen every step requires a bit more effort:
– find the light switch…which one turns on which lights?
– where’s the bread? butter?
– where’s the cutting board?
– where are the knives? plates?
– what other ingredients are in the fridge? where’s the nearest grocery store?
… the list of things to learn is overwhelming.
You may notice yourself getting anxious: “It’s a freaking sandwich. I’ve made a ton of these before…just breathe.” or get yourself worked up into a pretzel and curse this bad day you’re having without realizing why you’re so upset about the damn sandwich (or even what you’re upset about). Realize this: your brain is working overtime because it doesn’t yet have the leisure of auto-pilot. So cut yourself some slack. You’ll figure this out: you will learn this kitchen’s layout and in a few days, can practically make a sandwich with your eyes closed.
[Tweet “Pace your learning: things get easier once you hit ‘autopilot’ via @irinapravet”]
I hope you see where I’m taking this because I’m not actually talking about a sandwich. We often forget what life in a foreign country is and get so down on ourselves for not knowing where the butter knives are, or how to say butter knife in Finnish (is it voiveitsi?). Our brains are working overtime and we wonder why we can’t just get on with our lives and all the things we used to know how to do.
What’s interesting about this kitchen example is that it’s very controlled: we keep practicing because we have complete faith in our ability to learn the new kitchen layout. Most will acknowledge that things get easier, learn to be patient in the process & soon start to see progress. Where we stray is in the temptation to avoid the kitchen altogether, decide its layout is impossible to learn and order take-out instead…forever. So in case no one has told you lately, you can do this. I know you can, just keep at it.