One of the first things I learned while attempt to ski (a long time ago) was this warning: Don’t ski right behind someone else. You might get caught in the grooves their skis make. Getting caught in someone else’s groove can take us off track. Your skis get stuck following their tracks, and the grooves are hard to get out of. Especially deep ones.
In the music world, grooves are equally powerful. They set the tone. The drummers and bassists with the best ability to groove often get the most work. Everyone recognizes their power. Here, grooves are a good thing, and for the same reason as in skiing. They capture us, take us down a particular path, put us in a particular mood, and are able to really affect us. Especially the deep ones.
There is an idea that there are certain grooves that can develop in our thinking, too. Ones that once they are developed, don’t like to change. Muscle memory is the same way. Repeat something often enough and it feels like that’s the only way it can be done. Grooves in our thinking and our doing are beneficial adaptations to our environment and our work, but are hard to get out of. Especially the deep ones.
If our environment or work changes, our old grooves may not be suitable anymore. Yet, they will be difficult to change. It’s their nature. I offer a few things that I’ve found helpful in my own journey:
Take a step back – becoming an observer of our own thinking and doing can help us see what we are getting caught in.
Move more slowly – this applies to thinking, too. Moving and thinking slowly helps us see when we slip into, and doorways out of our grooves.
Outside eyes – trusted observers can help us identify our grooves.
Review the grooves – checking our grooves can help us identify the ones that are useful or not. The grooves can become tools themselves.
Change little things – this I learned from dancing (and muscle memory). The more we can change the little things, the less the power of the groove holds. We see more options, and are able to make more choices. It’s like being able to jump between a bunch of little grooves, rather than getting stuck in one deep one.
Whatever tools we have, and use, the key is to know that grooves are a part of how we are made. Some of the them can be really good, while others may pose more challenges. We should aim to get caught up in the good ones. Then, at least we’ll be able to enjoy the music.