It’s All Routine

The Seed Sower – Jeremy Sams Art

“Sow a thought, and you reap an act;
Sow an act, and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit, and you reap a character;
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”

― Samuel Smiles (1812-1904)

Four days before the Spring semester was to start – the university announced, to be safe, that we would do classes completely remote for the first two weeks. Well, that sent me into a scramble, launching a new plan. What it also did was delay the normal routine of life that keeps me sane and safe, something I take for granted but that’s essential for living a life that’s moving in the right direction. That’s what I want to do, keep moving toward future chapters.

“It’s amazing how a little tomorrow can make up for a whole lot of yesterday.” ― John Guare

As I think about it, routines in my life do three things:

They keep me moving in the right direction. This past year has been a mess for me. A series of starts and stops. It’s not just the dramatic changes in my work and social routines – but my basic life rhythms are off balance as I adjust to living alone. They don’t give names to tidal waves do they?

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I need to be thinking about where I want to go and the steps necessary to get there and so order my days in that direction. I teach college students to think about their learning like a 9-5 job (that metaphor is quickly going out the door!). Work on class assignments, reading, projects, etc. each and every day. Take specific steps as you plan your day that are carrying you toward your goal. Let’s see if anyone is listening.

While I’m sitting at home, on the couch – not going to my office, interacting with students one-on-one via messages, I try to keep a daily routine running. I write a list of tasks that need to be accomplished each day/week. Big and little, each must be done. There are also routines related to larger ongoing projects that I nibble on most days, like building an online course, painting a picture or writing those books.

These routines hold my focus on what’s important. It’s been too easy to lose whole days (even a week here and there) during solitary confinement. I always thought getting old would take longer (I stole that line). Time really is moving faster. I don’t want to lose days that had something essential in them that needed to be done.

It’s easy to wander off the trail and get confused about what I’m supposed to be doing. This prolonged time of separation and isolation can make anyone wonder about larger purposes. It seems as if there’s so much more time to fill. When I’m asking myself big questions related to mission and purpose, keeping the daily routine helps me to trudge on. You wouldn’t believe how much out loud talking to myself I’m doing!

“Whenever you want to achieve something, keep your eyes open, concentrate and make sure you know exactly what it is you want. No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.” ― Paulo Coelho

Doing work, reaching out to students, devotional/reflection, contacting friends and family, putting ideas on paper – all of these practices have been important and are still. It doesn’t matter how I feel or what the plans are for next week. Shaping each day around these sign posts help to show me what’s important. One day after another.

Routines can replace inspiration. I’m too often looking for burning bushes. Most of life is buttering the toast and putting the washing into the dryer. God’s presence in my daily life is very evident, but that doesn’t mean I don’t often feel trapped in the backwaters of sitting here.

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” ― Jack London

Let’s be honest, these days motivation and encouragement can be hard to find. Isolation is one cause, fewer social interactions can be another. Inspiration is something that’s often taken for granted. When it’s run dry, we notice, usually too late. I don’t always feel like it, but getting up at the same time, working on my list, getting online and running all the errands – most of the time the inner drive is very half-hearted, but routines keep the ship (me) afloat for another day.

When you put into action each day what you believe and know to be true – it becomes a lived out kind of inspiration. Waiting to be inspired is a death sentence. The trick is to keep walking in the spirit of what’s buried deep within you.

“God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.” ― J.M. Barrie

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The Secret Is In Your Routines

“It’s a hard thing to leave any deeply routined life, even if you hate it.” ― John Steinbeck

What has the quarantine done to the old routines in your your life?

  • Eating like a Hobbit (6 meals a day)?
  • Sleeping longer (more dreaming, good for thinking!)
  • Cleaning out closets (so there’s room to hide from others in the house)?

Right now we are all living with new and improvised routines.

We see what our lives look like when taken-for-granted routines are removed.

Routines in our lives are often unconscious and automatic patterns that guide daily living and accomplishing simple and important goals.

If not careful, your routines can trap you in ruts that keep you from moving forward or being able to think outside your quarantine box.

 “The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.” ― Samuel Johnson

I’m a firm believer in routines. They enable us to get so much accomplished. When we lean on our automatic thinking, our brain is free to think, imagine and solve in other areas. Routines allow us to liberate our daily living so that we can still accomplish what’s essential without having to sacrifice the dreaming. People who are able to use both conscious and unconscious (automatic) thinking are typically more satisfied with choices they make. We even make BETTER decisions when we use our unconscious thinking!

What about your morning routine? All that you are free to think about that’s coming in your day because you don’t have to be conscious of brushing your teeth or pulling on your socks.

Routines allow you to think about things that are important and urgent

Before the plague hit, I’d been going through a tremendous amount of routine changing. What I used to be able to take for granted I had to pay more attention to, almost daily. This took up too much brain power. I ended up forgetting, remembering wrong and getting facts out of order.

What about you? Has the new normal thrown all your routines out the window?

  • Think about the children in your life. They are even more dependent upon routine to normalize and organize their emerging selves.
  • You’re aware that the future will return our routines to us – but most are telling us that we will not go back to where we left but will instead have to create a new normal.
  • There will be no better time in your life to address your routines (and those of your children).

Have you been making any lists about you’d like to do different in the new normal?

What about the bigger routines, not the mundane chores like brushing your teeth or loading the dishwasher. What about your lifestyle habits? Some routine thinking can cause problems by preventing attention to what matters and/or moving forward with real living (stuck in a rut).

  • Do you remember coming home from work and falling into the same tired habits?
  • Any new people come into your circle in the past decade?
  • Are you reading more/new during the quarantine and would you like to make it a new normal for you?

“Sow a thought, and you reap an act;
Sow an act, and you reap a habit;
Sow a habit, and you reap a character;
Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.” ― Samuel Smiles

While routines are good for us, there is always the danger that they can hold us back from growth and self-awareness

“A nail is driven out by another nail; habit is overcome by habit.” ― Erasmus

Why not consciously think about starting some new routines in your life and take control of the your new normal?

What about…

  • New ways to do meals (do the cooking on the weekends) so you have more time during the weekday. Cooking together instead of dividing and conquering.
  • Writing down at the end of the day a big list (you decide what needs to go on it) so you’re not spending time before bed worrying.
  • Downsizing your closet so there’s less energy wasted on deciding what to wear (sorting through all that stuff that doesn’t even fit!)
  • Block out “phone free” times in your day/evening (put it out of reach) and use that time for real people in the room – or reading a book/magazine.
  • What do you think would happen if the TV remote were lost for a whole day?
  • Are you taking walks through your neighborhood, enjoying a new route each week or so?
  • Did you pay more attention to people while confined? Wasn’t that worth making a habit out of – a new normal for you?

What did the quarantine teach you? What did you decide was important that you want to keep in your life? Who do you want your new normal to help you become?

“I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me.” ― Hermann Hesse

 

 

It Really Isn’t Good To Be Alone

In our new national war on the plague, social distancing is one of our chief defensive weapons. This means we are holed up in our homes with immediate family. We are with fewer daily social contacts than we are used to, and some of us are now spending much more time alone than ever before.

“There may be a great fire in our soul, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke through the chimney.”  – Vincent van Gogh

Before this plague arrived I began to notice some of the effects of newly being alone in my own life. I was (and am) forgetting things and having trouble juggling normal daily routines. Here’s what I decided was probably the cause:

  1. I no longer have anyone at home with me to rehearse and review my daily schedule. This taken-for-granted activity has tremendous effects when it comes to reinforcing memory and solidifying routines.
  2. There’s also an important effect that life-long partnership produces, a running feedback on one’s activity and thinking. Sometimes this takes the form of a long and often repeated speech made at the wrong time. I was always good at this. Other times it’s just a smirk or a roll of the eyes. Last week I discovered how important this facet of living was when I assembled a double sized bed frame for a single sized mattress, both sitting in the same room. In the past, that day long project would never have gotten off the ground, argument included.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to live alone. I will make a suitable companion to help him.”  – Genesis 2:18

I think this means that we are not designed to live like hermits. Social distancing is just for emergencies. Selfishness is what often drives people away from each other (without realizing it at first). Sure, friendship and deeper relationships always come with a cost, but in the long run the payoff is well worth it.

Being alone too long can produce a wide variety of physical, emotional and social ailments:

  • Brain fog
  • Depression
  • Poor Digestion
  • Muscle Tension
  • Weakened Immune System
  • Disordered Sleep
  • Social Awkwardness/Panic
  • Mood Swings

Many of these problems we don’t see coming, instead being alone becomes a cause of other symptoms. It can take longer to piece together the causal chain and then even longer to find solutions.

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?” ― A. A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh)

In my case, I’ve got to institute some new routines to replace the review and rehearsing that I did each day without even realizing it. Becoming more intentional about daily life can produce a host of beneficial results. It’s a habit we all need to develop. Think about why you do WHAT you do and why you’ve got THAT on your calendar.

“Life is an experimental journey undertaken involuntarily. It is a journey of the spirit through the material world and, since it is the spirit that travels, it is the spirit that is experienced. That is why there exist contemplative souls who have lived more intensely, more widely, more tumultuously than others who have lived their lives purely externally.” ― Fernando Pessoa

  1. Start the day with a rehearsal of the big events – talk it over in the car ride to work
  2. End the day with a review of what worked and what didn’t – you should be keeping a journal
  3. Post-it notes are still a great idea – but after two weeks you no longer see them
  4. Talk with someone about something in your day each day – even a text message
  5. Try to check in on others – set a goal to do this each week

“The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration. ” ― Pearl S. Buck