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Five personal growth lessons learned while house sitting

by Aaron Potts, 24th August 2007

Self-empowerment guru and proud blogger, Aaron Potts, has a small epiphany while on house sitting assignment. It seems that your perception of your own little Universe can shift a degree or two when you do something as simple as getting out of your car and walking around your own streets or minding a neighbour’s house for a time.

I think our membership are already in tune with Aaron’s message. When asked, a full 32% of our house sitter members state ‘wanting a change of scene’ as their main reason for house sitting. Yes!

But Aaron says it best:

‘Your life is out there right now waiting for you to experience it. Get outside of your comfort zone, break out of your routine, try new things, peek around new corners, and see what life is like outside of your little box. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you find out!’

6 Aug, 2007

I spent the majority of last weekend house and pet sitting for some friends of mine, and it was just me, the dog, and the cat for almost 3 days. It was good mental down time, and the change of scenery allowed me to get a view that I wouldn’t have had if I had been in my normal surroundings.

I am a firm believer in getting outside of “comfort zones” and looking at life from different points of view. Here are some insights from my house sitting experience that you can use to rattle the chains of your own lifestyle in order to get a perspective that will allow personal growth and introspection.

1. Your Routine is Powered by Your Environment

Most people have a certain routine that works for them. They do certain things in certain ways at certain times of day. This routine allows a level of mental preparedness that is part of our ability to do whatever it is that we are doing from day to day.

However, as consistent as a lot of people are when it comes to their routine, their schedule, or their task list, that rock-solid routine is actually built on a pretty shaky foundation. Even if you know that you are going to be outside of your normal environment – and you plan accordingly – it can still be very difficult to stick to the routine that you are so familiar with.

By the simple act of taking yourself out of your normal environment, even if the same time and material resources are available for you to stick to your normal routine, the change of scenery alone will throw you off course.

The ability to actually stick to your comfortable and productive routine requires a level of mental preparedness. It isn’t just a matter of lining up the logistical aspects of sticking to your routine in a strange environment, but also a level of premeditated mental readiness.

2. You Don’t Know a Neighborhood until you have Walked It

The house that I was caretaking was one that I had been to many times before, and the neighborhood was one that I was likewise at least marginally familiar with.

However, as I struggled to maintain my daily exercise program away from my normal running trails, my gym, and my normal sleep patterns, I found myself walking quite a bit rather than running or doing weight training.

As a result, I ended up seeing that somewhat familiar neighborhood from a radically different perspective than I had previously seen it while driving, or that I would have seen it if I were running.

With more time available to take in details as I walked, I noticed things such as how the sidewalks and landscaping were very different than my own neighborhood, I looked at the many different types of trees that previously had just been quickly driven past, and I even made note of the way local homes and businesses were architecturally set up to blend in with the cultural and geographic “motif” of the area.

3. Beauty and Squalor Co-exist Everywhere

The neighborhood where I was house sitting is a fairly old neighborhood in Jacksonville, FL, and some of the houses have clearly been there for a very long time. Some of them were obviously well taken care of, while others were not as well loved – at least not on the outside.

Likewise, where a 1950′s era building had previously stood a few years ago, now a brand-new, ultra-modern condominium had been put in its place, yet even that new building had been crafted to blend in well.

Nonetheless, in both the case of the new and old houses, as well as the new and old businesses, none of them were more than a city block away from another house or business that was radically more or less well taken care of.

It was culture shock to see homeless people – and even one girl that must have been a prostitute – walking around the same areas where brand-new or well-maintained homes and businesses were obviously owned by very prosperous individuals.

4. Most People are Friendly if you Give them a Chance

Again referring to some of the individuals who at first glance would not seem like the kind of people that you would strike up a conversation with, appearances really have very little to do with the kind of person someone is.

With the exception of the aforementioned prostitute, I greeted almost every person that I came across in my travels. Some were walking, others were working, some were running or bicycling, and still others were lounging around on benches, on a smoke-break from work, or simply standing around doing nothing.

I don’t recall anyone ignoring my greeting or saying anything negative to me, although some of them looked at first like they might not take well to being addressed out of the blue.

In fact, if there was any reaction that I experienced more than any other, it was surprise. I guess people in that kind of culturally diverse neighborhood are not used to someone as open and friendly as I am. Whenever I gave an appropriate greeting to the people that I came across, many enthusiastically responded in kind, even if they were a bit surprised at first.

5. Animals – like People – have Comfort Zones

Having spent almost 3 days with a very high-maintenance pooch (I love you, Roxy!) and a cat that I have actually known for years (Who turns on the faucet for you, Dreamy?), I came to the definite conclusion that just as much as I was outside of my normal environment, both of those animals had to get acclimated to my presence as well.

With their owners out of town at a wedding, both Roxy and Dreamy were unsure of how to take me living in their space. Even though I had spent time with both of them on many previous occasions, visiting somewhere for a few hours is a lot different than living there for 3 days.

However, just as this post is meant to teach you, dear reader, that it is possible to adapt to – and even thrive in – any type of environment, both the cat and the dog figured it all out. By the time I left on Sunday, Dreamy had realized with glee that the more she purred, the more I would pet her, and Roxy came to the conclusion that falling asleep with me on the couch was time very well spent!

The moral of this little trip down the memory lane of my weekend spent house sitting?

Your life is out there right now waiting for you to experience it. Get outside of your comfort zone, break out of your routine, try new things, peek around new corners, and see what life is like outside of your little box. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you find out!

About the author: Aaron Potts

Aaron Potts is a very happy man. He invites all of those who find his blogsite to 'read, enjoy, and become empowered!' An American with five children in his blended family, he sets out to inspire and promote discussion among his readers.