As much as we love adventure and excitement, human beings are creatures of habit. We love our patterns, our schedules, our routine. There is a simple and straightforward reason for this: life is so busy and complicated that we find it helpful to create a little structure to ease the tension of what we should be doing and thinking about.
Like most things in life, there is a good way to apply our obsession with routine and a bad way. The thing itself is a neutral entity, but how we use it can set up practices that add health and vitality to our lives or ones that distract and derail.
Routine is valuable for a couple of reasons. First, it establishes discipline and consistency in our lives. We all strive to be a consistent person and routine helps us to do that even when we do not feel like it. Routine and healthy habits invite us to chase our goals and our dreams even through the hard and challenging (and boring!) times.
The second advantage to routine is that it helps grease the tracks for productivity. Our brain is designed to set up short cuts so we do not have to use significant mental energy every time we do things like tie our shoes. Our scheduled routines can do the same thing in our lives. It keeps us moving rather than building up kinetic energy sitting around trying to figure out what’s next.
That being said, there can be a danger to our patterns and our routine. It can be a quicksand into apathy, sucking the awareness out of life. Some of that yearning, longing, and considering is good and necessary for vibrant living. If we hold too tightly (or too exclusively) to our routines, we close ourselves off to the adventure of change and the invitation to reconsider what we are doing and why.
This problem becomes exponentially dangerous when our routines are not the best for us. When our patterns contain abuse or addiction. Our shortcuts can lead us like zombies toward a life of destruction just as easily (if not more easily) than they can lead us to a life of purpose.
What to do then?
The best way to handle routine is to strike a balance between setting it up and holding it with open hands. And when we set up our routines, we do our best when they are truly aligned with our values and a vision that speaks to those values.
We need to work some interruptions into our routine. Some flex time, some rest, and some time where we reevaluate the effectiveness of our routines and make the changes necessary to improve them.
Like so many things in this life, routine is valuable… and dangerous. It needs to be grounded in truth, honesty, and vision for a desired purpose. It needs to spur us to action, but the right action. Routine is worth setting in place and worth reevaluating. It is a structure that helps guide behavior and manifest meaning.