With fall approaching you might be one of those people craving a “new life” with new routines. But what are routines really? To start from the very beginning, there is much talk about setting healthy routines for babies so the baby can rest assured in and of predictability in this unpredictable world. Some parents follow a strict schedule for naps and feedings. For grown-ups, I guess the same concept is valid: with routines, we can create some predictability, safety, and comfort. We know when and what to expect. For some people, a schedule not too unlike a baby’s is really helpful to maintain their lives. For others, it’s just another stress. For me, it has historically been just another stress. I have never liked being stuck in a certain pattern over time, stuck to specific times. However, if I take a more loose approach to the time aspect, that certain things are supposed to happen at a certain time, routines work in my favor as well.
When it comes down to it, I say routines are supposed to help you live the life you want. Routines are not, in my opinion, supposed to be guidelines of how to be a “good boy/girl”. Routines are supposed to help you build on self-trust – that you can trust that you will be there for yourself on your path in life.
Let me take an example. Say you want to workout regularly for the sake of your health. For some it would be helpful to schedule workouts to set times of the week, say every Tuesday and Thursday. For me, that would be stressful. I want to be free to work out when my body craves it and free to skip if my body says no. My way would perhaps not work for someone who tends not to work out at all if given the chance, or maybe the other side of the coin, wouldn’t know when there has been too much exercise. Even if these two versions and mine are all striving for the same goal, to exercise regularly for a healthy life, they look quite different.
There are flip sides to all three versions. With my flexible version, one could ask if I was afraid of commitment. For the one tending to not follow through one could ask if the procrastination comes from the goals not being in line with true values. For the over-doer one could ask if the overdoing is driven by anxiety to prove oneself worthy, better-than (in fear of being less-than?) or simply being unable to relax. Or maybe something else for all three versions. Only you, the routine-setter, can know, and your opinion when it comes to your routines is the only one that really matters. We are all different and we can value different things in life. And that is ok.
The important thing with routines is, again, that you build them up to fit your life, nobody else’s; that they fit your goals and values in life; and that you give yourself a chance to fulfill said goals by providing yourself the right circumstances (may it be time, to name one thing). To then follow a routine that works in your favor will feel like a strengthening thing in your life, not another must.
One tip on the way is to look at: how do you know when you have fulfilled your routine? If we stick with the example of working out, can five minutes of stretching be enough? Be curious if you set really harsh routines for yourself. I encourage you to set your routines based on love and care for what you truly need. Set routines that you actually can accomplish and build from there.
Another thing that can be interesting to look at is: how do you treat yourself when you cannot for some reason follow your routine? Do you get angry with yourself and punish yourself? Do you get anxious, maybe because someone else will punish you with comments (real or imaginative) about your lack of commitment? Or are you compassionate towards yourself? Or maybe something else that you can think of?
Yet another thing to look at is what do you do if your goals and values collide with someone else’s in your vicinity. Take this for an example: you value eating healthy and taking care of your body, but your family of origin values getting together to feast on deep-fried food. What do you do then? Can it be talked about or not? Can boundaries be respected or not? Will you be strict with your routine, flexible, too flexible or will you take to some other creative solution (like avoiding them, saying that you have already eaten…).
Reflections are endless, let me know if I can be of service to you 🙂