Every morning and every evening I have established a routine that is meant to help me be present with myself, put myself first, start and end the day well and most of all, pay attention to what the days teach me. I am a bit over a month into it and I feel that I am reaching a different point from the bliss I felt starting it. So it made me wonder – how can we spot the moment when discipline is no longer beneficial? When does it become just ticking a box?
Each time I realize that I need to change a behavior I make a plan and start a routine. I make a conscious decision about what I am going to do and how long I am going to do it for. This takes the pressure off the moment of the actual activity / routine – I have already decided and I have already planned it. All I need to do now is do it. I make it as easy as possible for myself to carry out my routine – I arrange my clothes for running the night before (so that when I struggle each morning to get out of bed, this will not be a decision to be made – it would take the whole time allotted to running, I know that); I have apps on my phone that guide me when I run, when I sit mindfully or when I want to have a yoga morning; I fill my bottle the night before so that the first thing I do is hydrate my body after a night of sleep. On top of making things really easy for me each morning (a.k.a. the moment of the least willpower ), the preparations I end my evening with send a clear message to my brain that I am important and I come first.
The other day I was talking to my friend about the moment when you forget about your routine. Because this moment comes in everyone’s life. I find it is a cyclic process – we start with the bliss of newness, we get hyped about the fact that we managed to keep it up for a week, or 2 or 4 and then something happens and our enthusiasm dies down and there are days when we cannot drag ourselves out of bed to do anything. This is a key moment and I see it as a crossroads: you can choose to immerse yourself in the disappointment that you dropped out of yet another activity (speaking only from personal experience) or you can cut yourself some slack and start again, in small(er) increments.
The real danger I see in all of this is that moment when your routine is no longer the source of internal fulfillment but just a box to be ticked. And I have made the commitment with myself to pay attention to this, to make sure that my routine continues to remain meaningful.
Here are some ideas of things to look at when paying attention to this:
- Are you all in? – or are you sitting mindfully while planning what to cook? Now, thinking, planning, worrying etc. always interfere with our mindfulness practice and meditation is the process of bringing your concentration back to the breath. But if you find yourself at the end of the practice and you have not taken one conscious breath, now that is food for thought.
- Look at the WHY – why are you doing this? Is it because you can feel the benefits in yourself, are you using someone else’s recipe or are you following a trend? Obviously, you are more inclined to keep any activity up if your drive is internal.
- Be kind to yourself – there are so many circumstances in our lives that prevent us from following through our routines; if you missed a day, a month, a year, that’s OK, it happens to the best of us – start over. Find what works in that moment and do not ruminate over what was or could have been. It is useless anyway. We only live in the now.