The hardest habit to break is not having good habits. Good habits are the product of a consistent, reliable routine. And a consistent, reliable routine is the best friend to every successful person I know.
Let me just say right off that I don’t like the word “routine.” The very concept just sounds dull and predictable. I like terms such as “flies by the seat of her pants” and “thinks on his feet” because they are interesting and energizing; they connote action. “Routine” just comes off as uninspired.
But that’s where I get the noun and the adjective mixed up. When I describe something as “routine,” I’m talking about something dull and monotonous. But the noun “routine” is far different and, in fact, requires a great deal of pro-activity on my part to create and maintain.
Ask any new mother about the importance of a routine when it comes to raising little ones. Kids need a routine because they need to understand what’s coming next. They need to have some expectation around when they will get to eat, play and sleep, particularly when they can’t talk yet. When the routine goes out the window, the wailing begins.
Adults need routine as well. There has to be some rhythm and order to how the day will go. When you look back on your day, you want to be able to know you spent it in a way that honors what you say you want. “I went to work today” honors your desire to have income. “I worked out today” honors your claim that you want to get into better shape.
When we create a few predictable actions each day, there are less open doors and cracked windows where bad habits can sneak in. Didn’t plan anything for dinner? Oh well, it’s easier to open a bag of Doritos than it is to figure out a meal at 7 pm. Fooled around on Facebook even though you knew it would make you late for work? Glares from the boss and a hectic morning it is for you then.
Swore this was the day you were going to start working out but never found the time? Of course you never found the time because that time was never built into any kind of routine. And, like with small children, when the routine goes out the window, the wailing begins. “Why can’t I get it together?” or “Why am I so unmotivated?” you lament. In addition, because you didn’t build in any time for beating yourself up today, now you’re even further behind…with the added bonus of feeling like a schlub.
Lest you think I’m lecturing you on routine, please note that today I am routine-free. I stayed up too late last night (for the third night in a row) and now I’m tired. I didn’t love what my husband made for dinner last night so I didn’t eat it. I didn’t get the work I planned for this morning done so now I’m behind. I ran out of short-acting insulin and haven’t transferred the prescription to the new pharmacy under the new insurance plan so now I feel like garbage every time I eat garbage. I can’t find my glucose meter so I have no idea what my sugars are, and it’s almost noon and I have yet to take a shower and go out into the world to do what it is I do.
But here’s what I can do today: I can remember that the day is only half-over, and I still have a solid 8 or 9 hours to make good choices. I can consider that a more consistent routine will make for more wellness, energy and peace, not just in your life, but in mine. And I can go and get in the shower.