Forget Déjà Vu—Vuja De Is the Mindful Hack You Need
Why do we do things the way that we do them?
When it comes to our work and daily life, this is an important question to ask. Do we operate on auto-pilot day-to-day? Do we respond to client emails in a similar fashion? Do we ever think outside the box?
Truthfully, our day-to-day can feel monotonous. We find ourselves in situations that are very familiar, moving sluggishly through the day's to-dos.
This is especially true of jobs that require routine. It makes many of us frustrated, bitter, and bored, and eventually less productive than we should be. But watching the clock is no way to go through your day.
Enter Vuja De
Vuja de is the reverse of déjà vu, thought up by the late comedian George Carlin who told his audience it is “the strange feeling that, somehow, none of this has ever happened before,” even though it has in fact, happened many times over.
It's a feeling where—all of a sudden—you can look at a Groundhog-like day, month, or even year and see it with fresh eyes. It's how the comedian went through most of his life able to come up with fresh material. It's something that can be wildly helpful when you're stuck in a professional rut.
New ideas and insights often come from looking at a similar situation in a different light.
Here are four tips for cultivating more moments of vuja de:
Take a Walk Outside
New ideas and insights often come from looking at a similar situation in a different light. That one project you've been working on that isn't quite working? Put it on pause for five minutes and take a walk. You may be looking at the exact same buildings, people, cars, coffee shops surrounding your office, but brain imaging has shown that after just 20 minutes of walking, your brain lights up, releasing a protein called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor).
BDNF helps repair the memory neurons in your brain— effectively acting as a reset switch. So when you head back into the office or that drab cubicle, you can look at the exact same problem with a new eye.
Another way to cultivate some vuja de while walking: Try looking at your surroundings as if you were a tourist. Even if you've walked that same route every weekday for the past year, try seeing your surroundings—the passersby, the buildings, the greenery—for the first time. You'll be surprised what new things you notice with your tourist googles on.
Pay Attention to the Background Noise
What do you look at for most of the day? Maybe it's a computer screen. Or, perhaps there's a photo on your desk that's your go-to for zoning out. (JK we know you scroll Insta at work.) But what are you really looking at? We don't only continuously scroll our tech, we've started applying that practice to work. It's time to get your thumb off the screen and your finger on the pulse.
If you heighten your senses to pay attention to "background" noise (for those who do yoga, you've probably experienced this sensation during Shavasana) it'll help bring new ideas to the forefront. It seems silly, but if you're having a hard time doing this, try squinting. It'll shift your perspective even if you can't look away from the task at hand.
Think of Your Intention
With many careers, there's lots of repetition. Take blogging world, for example. It's a place full of cupcakes, macaroon, ice cream cones against brick walls.. and, to me, it gets old. But when you set an intention behind what you're doing—or revisit why you started doing it in the first place—you can make something very similar feel and look brand new.
Take time to think of the meaning behind what you do. With blogging, for example: Are you posting a shot of cupcakes because that's what's hot, or because it serves a purpose with your story? Give your task meaning to give it staying pattern. It'll help you see those tedious tasks in a new light, too.
Change Up Something Small
Setting schedules and being organized can prove immeasurably useful when you're a busy person. But if you have every moment of your life and work penciled in, autopilot can kick in and you can fall asleep at the wheel. The good news: you can erase pencil.
If you have, for example, a team meeting every Monday at 10 a.m. and ideas are starting to feel stale, change the time of the meeting. The setting is still the same, the people are still the same, but this tiny shift can actually cause a shift in thinking. A different time of day will produce different ideas—and so will a change of scenery. If you always have your lunch at your desk, for example, try eating in the office kitchen, or on even head to a nearby park. A very simple switch can prove significant.
When All Else Fails: Eavesdrop
Info is there. Ideas are too. It's all around you, often coming out of the mouth of a stranger. And though we've been told it's rude to listen in on others' conversations, you're not doing it for gossip's sake— you're doing it because a simple word or turn of phrase can legit change how you interact with your world and your work. Consider this permission to eavesdrop—but only in the name of vuja de.
Read next: How You're Building Your Future Self Today