We’ve all been conditioned to think that routines determine the trajectory of our life; that is, the daily routines we perform either move us towards or away from our goals. I’ve recently become aware that a routine, as defined in its traditional sense, can be dangerous.
Let me start by defining the obvious; a routine is a sequence of actions regularly followed. In other words, it’s a fixed program.
Successful people have solid routines that are popularized by the self-development gurus and the accompanying programs they sell. This genre’s hook is usually anchored in how a successful person starts their day — and for some reason, we seem to buy into this triteness. Here’s my unpopular opinion: what if I told you that routines could also provide the adverse effect? By this, I mean that routines can also be the root cause of inertia and stagnation in life, resulting in unhappiness and unfulfillment.
“But wait” you say — “my routine isn’t boring. I wake up at 5am, meditate, read positive self-improvement blogs and workout almost every day. This seems like the epitome of a healthy routine, the kind of routine that all successful people do”. Okay, okay I get your point, but here’s mine: performing the same actions everyday without any change or new variables can snowball into feeling static, despite how healthy your routines may be.
I write this as if I’m the master on the subject, yet I’m one of the most routine-driven people you will ever meet. I generally wake up at 6:00am everyday, make my bed, drink my coffee, meditate for 10 minutes, read or write for 30 minutes, and run at least 5 miles everyday. Anyone that disrupts or interferes with my routine will (and has) gotten the boot from my life. Trust me, I know how obnoxious that sounds — especially since my family and friends have reiterated how annoying my regimens are. But despite my seemingly healthy habits and routines, I still have this lingering feeling of unfulfillment; a big ol’ void of discontent. What is that void? How do I fill it? I thought I was doing everything right.
And……cue my thesis statement. Without change, without keeping your mind constantly open and curious to new information, your routine — despite how healthy it is — can lead to mundaneness.
You lift the same weights and do the same workout routine every day? Cool, your muscles will plateau and stop growing, and you will continue to look the same aesthetically.
You’ve read enough self-development books to mentally feed a village of Gwenyth Paltrows? True, you are learning, but only from a single subject matter, which can limit your world view and hinder the connections between brain cells.
Are you starting to see the conundrum here or is my logic as convoluted as a Trump tweet?
You may wonder why you’re not seeing any positive change in your life, even when you’re sharing the same routines as successful people; why is everything staying the same and why do you feel so unfulfilled in your daily life?
Here’s my answer that I will continue to reiterate: without change, you are limiting your mind from being curious and welcoming new information. Routine can be paralyzing. They’re monotonous, blinding you to the beauty and randomness life can bring. Trust me, I know from experience. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that routines can certainly allow you to inch closer to your goals over time and build foundational habits.
Whatta conundrum. Sorry, I just like saying that word.
Just to clarify, I’m not trying to live by the (oddly specific) motto of “if my healthy routine isn’t good for me, then fuck it. I’m going to binge-watch Saved by the Bell in bed this morning, be two hours late for work, and eat a bowl of fruit loops on the toilet”. Also — sorry if this is actually your routine — but if it is, then yikes.
How to Keep Your Routines But Continue to Grow
As humans, we thrive by constantly challenging ourselves — learning and growing intellectually, physically, and emotionally. Misery stems from inertia, the feeling of days all blending together, and no progress really happening despite our efforts.
Here are my suggestions (based on personal experience) that will spice up your routines whilst enjoying life:
· Incorporate one new exercise into your routine every time you workout and mix up the order of your strength training and cardio.
· Do your meditation practice outdoors instead of on the couch or on the mat. Try doing it in the evening with a candle by your side.
· If you have the opportunity, work somewhere new at least once a week; try a new coffee shop or visit your local library.
· Read an article on a topic you know nothing about. Medium is a great platform to read stories and articles from a variety of authors that span across different disciplines.
· Try learning one new skill a month and incorporate it into your routine (ie. coding, learning a new language, etc.).
· Join a Meetup and talk to strangers. Listening to other peoples perspectives and objective opinions can open up your mind to a new way of thinking.
I guess the point I’m trying to hammer home is that we’re all inquisitive beings, and as such, we need to be able to find a way to nourish and cultivate that curiosity. Challenging ourselves — including routines that have become commonplace — gives us a chance to prosper in new and unsuspecting ways. I’m not saying that routine is frowned upon per se, but when it loses its malleability and can no longer grow alongside you, then it becomes a burden; a weight that leaves you stationary.
Now that I’ve uttered a surplus of platitudes above, I’ll get completely real with you. Routine becomes regular, and let’s face it, regular is boring. Being regular is one of the biggest insults you can dish to someone, so why actively regularize your life to the point where you’re leaving little wiggle room for amelioration?
Live a little unhinged every so often, maybe even take up eating a bowl of Fruit Loops on the toilet today. Just kidding, but in all seriousness, self-improvement stems from change — so don’t confine yourself to a life of mechanical routines day in and day out.