At first glance, habits and routines may seem boring. In fact, I feel like a lot of people are turned off by the idea of a morning routine or a night routine because they believe they would be denying the fundamental spontaneous and creative nature of their personality. This is where I disagree. I think that habits and routines enable even more creativity and spontaneity than ever before and here’s why.
Habits are foundational. They provide all the rigidity, consistency, and structure that would otherwise be lacking in something spontaneous like an adventure. You can think of habits like the foundation of a house. The deeper, stronger, and more stable a foundation is, the higher you can build and the more craziness you can build into that structure. Like it or not, as human beings, we have some level of basic physical and mental needs and the sturdier we are with our habits, the more freedom we will have to explore. The thing is, life isn’t about going on just one adventure, it’s about going on as many as you want or can. Because it’s easy to drop everything or put away your problems for a day, or a month, or maybe even years. But at some point, that avoidance will catch up to you. So how do you make sure you’ll always be ready for an adventure when the opportunity presents itself? Build strong habits. You’ll learn how to challenge them, when to break them, and when to get right back into it.
Routines play a similar role to habits in that they are foundational. Imagine that every day you wake up with 100xp. You can spend these points however you like. You can even borrow from the next day. But regardless, these points are a limited quantity. These experience points are your energy and your willpower. Habits are awesome because they take the decision-cost out of each action. Best-case scenario, you throw all of your habits into routines and you are reaping the benefits of the consistent, stable support benefits of your habits at almost no cost thanks to your routines. Because the thing is, you only get 100xp and if you want to be able to do what you love, explore, and adventure, you better be rationing carefully. Routines give us the energy and fuel to do so, every single day.
So while habits and routines might seem exceptionally boring and uncool, I challenge you to challenge your preconceptions. Because it is exactly the so-called “boringness” of these activities that will enable you to push the limits of whatever it is you want to do.
Habits give you the freedom to be spontaneous.
Routines give you the energy to do what you love.
And while this may seem somewhat paradoxical, what in life isn’t? Adding these two skills into your adventurer’s toolkit will add the balance you need to go farther than you’ve ever gone before. Every. Single. Day. How else could you call yourself an adventurer?
The problem with habits is that they can get really boring. We lose motivation and find ourselves having to get back into it over and over again. Despite my love for habits and my awareness of the importance they play in my life, I still find myself dreading them some days. I’ve realized it’s not the habits themselves that I have a problem with, but what I think I could do with my time if I could hurry up and get my habits over with. The issue here is my mind. You see, it’s not that I don’t enjoy the parts of my morning routine, because on closer analysis I really do.
Take my morning routine for example. I start my day by jotting down what I can remember about my dreams, meditating, brushing my teeth, exercising, and then showering. All in all, this usually takes around 2 hours, which isn’t bad considering how many habits are encapsulated in it. I’m fascinated by my dreams so I love writing about them, I enjoy the peace of meditation, the rhythm of brushing my teeth, the feeling of being alive when I move, and the clarity of showering. However, two hours is a long time to wait to start my day. But therein lies the issue. I’ve learned that I need to not think of it as “waiting”, in fact I need to stop thinking about this routine at all. By thinking about the routine and considering whether or not I want to do it (when I know deep down the answer is always yes), I am defeating the purpose of the routine, to save willpower. When I consider whether or not to proceed with each step, not only am I delaying the entire process, but also I am wasting precious energy. The whole purpose of routines is to circumvent the mind entirely and by adding it back into the equation I’m interfering.
The point of all this being that while habits and routines can be especially rewarding, it’s not always easy. So, what do we do about it? I propose that to the greatest extent of our abilities, we eliminate the mind. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. While my conscious mind has obviously been incredibly useful to me in solving problems, reflecting, and learning, it is really starting to get in the way of things. My mind loves to absorb any excess energy I have and channel it into thoughts that may or may not be useful, and in the case of questioning the validity of my routines, the thoughts are definitely not useful.
Now how to go about quieting the mind is another journey entirely, but here’s where I’ll start. Anytime I find myself questioning whether or not to begin or continue with a routine, I will quietly push those thoughts away as I would while meditating. While this strategy won’t always quiet the incessant ramblings of my mind, it’s a start.
I’d love to hear what you guys think about routines and habits and if you have any lessons you’ve learned along the way.