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

 

 

Asking “What?” Instead of “Why?”

“The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking.” ― John Kenneth Galbraith

Sometimes we can get stuck in a very frustrating loop, trying to understand our situation. Usually because our life isn’t going the way we had hoped. What can make these experiences so much more frustrating is not knowing WHY everything has gone wrong. Our search for the answers to these kinds of questions can’t be found and in our frustration, anger and sorrow, we just keeping asking – like a broken record.

I’ve been asking a lot of why questions over the past five years…I sound like a broken record

I assigned one of my classes a TED Talk to watch this week. I wanted students to learn about their level of self-awareness. The psychologist giving the talk has done research on self-awareness and published a best selling book on the subject. She offered a remarkable strategy to raise self-awareness and success at solving many of own difficulties.

Her advice, based on careful research, is to stop asking WHY when we are faced with obstacles and set-backs. Instead, rephrase our frustrations and ask instead, WHAT questions.

  • Why did my career end like this…becomes
    What are the next steps I need to take to start over?
  • Why was my spouse unfaithful to me…becomes
    What can I do to rebuild my marriage, step by step?
  • Why do I feel so alone in the world…becomes
    What should I do each day to be a better friend to others?

Asking these kinds of WHAT questions starts us on a more constructive path. We stop blaming everyone and everything else for our particular situations and instead find ways to take responsibility (when we can) for our own life. I think it’s a very healthy strategy for changing direction and getting out of the rut that we sometimes get stuck in. I’m going to try it. In so doing, I stand a better chance of expanding my own self-awareness.

“A human being has so many skins inside, covering the depths of the heart. We know so many things, but we don’t know ourselves! Why, thirty or forty skins or hides, as thick and hard as an ox’s or bear’s, cover the soul. Go into your own ground and learn to know yourself there.”  ― Meister Eckhart

The reason I have my class working on this assignment is because I want them to think about their own spiritual selves. This can be tough for young people who are just now starting to try their wings as adults. Many are not very self-aware, yet. I think that’s a crucial first step to spiritual awakening.

As seasoned adults, we may not be that different from first year college students when it comes to being self-aware and ready to be spiritually awake. I make many of the same kinds of mistakes. I’m not always as wise and mature as I thought I’d be at this point in my journey.

But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.  – James 3:17

When I spend more time and effort reflecting, I’m certain that this is NOT the consistent kind of wisdom that rules my life.  The first step to making a change is to start thinking about the way I’m thinking.

What sets us apart (older adults) is our experience – trips around the block. Once we learn our lesson, it’s typically easier to figure our way out because we have more resources (both people and wisdom) to work with. Despite these resources, even older adults (like me) need some prodding when it comes to self-awareness.

That’s why I offer this bit of wisdom to you today – something I’m trying to learn myself. Start thinking more clearly about the kinds of questions you are asking yourself when you find yourself stuck in a bad situation. It really is possible to ask your way out of misery.

“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