There are so many ways I want to start this conversation, and so many ways that it can get boring. So in the least amount of words, here is why you need good routines.
- Routines work
- You have them already
- You can design them to work for you not against you
Is that enough to keep you going for a couple more paragraphs? Perfect, here’s the science.
Pavlov Showed us that sentient beings respond to stimuli and if we are crafty, we can manipulate the stimuli/response system to work to our benefit. In fact, the crafty little steps to creating a habit are actually quite simple;
Decide on one thing that will create a positive change in your life (only ever change one thing at a time – it will keep you sane and allow you to measure the impact on your life
- Keep it small, simple and very specific (for example – ‘drink more water’ becomes ‘drink 2 liters of water throughout the day).
- Make it easy and FUN! – If you want to drink more water, make it easy for yourself and find a way to enjoy it (example – fill a water bottle every morning, preferably one that holds the minimum amount of water you want to drink in the day – and make the water bottle fun – put your name on, sparkle it up, maybe add some flavouring). Make sure to keep the water bottle with you all the time!
- Create a trigger – sometimes this is as easy as leaving your empty water bottle on the counter at the end of the day so it is easy to see in the morning. If easy is not on the menu however, create a repeating alarm on your phone to trigger you to fill your water bottle or to drink water, whichever you need.
- Be Gentle – Be kind to yourself, stick to it and reward yourself (in a healthy way) with small successes.
Those are the basics, and possibly all you need, but if you are interested, I have more.
We all have routines. Whether you realize it or not, a lot of your daily behaviour is habitual. These are automatic behaviours that you do without thinking. For centuries, people have been engaging in interesting ways to create and maintain habits, in fact, mainstream religious groups are a perfect example. Common community gathering for mass is on Sunday, many groups have a call and response system, and almost all groups have created ceremony around their most important behaviours. All of this to make it easy and “habitual”. But don’t feel as if religion has cornered the market. We all use habit and routine, some times for good healthy behaviours like exercise and meditation, but also in ways that could probably use some adjustment. Think about all the habits you have that you don’t even remember trying to create. Perhaps you put your keys in the same pocket when you walk out the door, or maybe you have a routine that you go through every weekday when you first wake up. Now imagine carefully crafting your daily routine to support and create the healthiest, happiest version of yourself.
Well you made it this far… and this last bit is the best bit!
If you could live your best life, the life that your ancestors would be proud of and your children would want to emulate with their own families, what would that life look like. Which activities best reflect your values? Which moments of deep human connection are entrenched in your routines and rituals? Our lives are complicated and filled with demands for our time, which is exactly why we must be deliberate and habitual about the things that matter the most.
- Sit down with your family and discuss your values. Decide which learnings, customs and activities should be prioritized and habitualized in daily routines. Curate the life you will be excited to wake-up to everyday.
- Create a loose schedule with choices that reflect your prioritized family values. Choice provides a sense of control along with reminding people that they are valued.
- Build in time when you work together, as a family unit on common projects and other relevant tasks that make up part of the realities of living in today’s world. Meals, cleaning and regular home maintenance are things that have to be modeled to be learned, what a great time to talk through new innovative approaches.
Every act that we engage in now will mature as lived experience later. This is the most powerful opportunity that we have been given in our lifetimes. Do you. Mindfully. With care and love.