My friend sent me a list written by Ryan Holiday, a modern stoic influencer and author, which comprised of ‘100 very short rules for a better life’ which I’d recommend giving a read. While it’s actually a lot to digest despite the brevity of each ‘rule’, I think it’s a good exercise to read them (quite quickly) and see which ones stick out to you/stay with you the most. That way your subconscious desires of what you really want to work on will be revealed and voilà! Off you go. Onto the next realm of self-development.
For me, the ones that stuck out the most were:
- It’s not about routine but about practice
- Think progress, not perfection
And I’m going to talk about the former.
I’ve always been a very routine-focused person, almost religiously. I get up around the same time every morning, make myself a cup of tea, do my morning pages first thing, journal, go for a walk/run, shower, get ready for work, go to work. It’s taken time to build these little rituals up, but I know they’re good for me and help start my day off on the right foot. Nevertheless, a fear-based belief I think many of us have is that if we break our precious routines, that’s it. It’s over. One slip-up and that’s solid evidence that you are, in fact, a big fat failure. Secret’s out! Now you can go back to being the gross couch potato you really are.
But what if the opposite were true? What if, actually, routine were the death of creativity? If routine were the proverbial silent killer of who we fundamentally are?
A dangerous way to live which I’ve talked about here is in black-and-white, or ‘this or that’ or ‘all or nothing’ thinking. There’s no room for possibility and very little wiggle room for change. Routine, though disguised as a good friend, actually instills this dichotomous belief that you’re either a ‘winner’ or ‘loser’. Should you continue your solid routine, you’re an awesome person. You’re capable of anything. Carpe diem motherfuckers! But should you slip up, then just give up completely. It’s over. You POS. And whoops! Before you know it you’re back at square one. AGAIN.
This is why flexibility is so important. The ability to adapt is one of our most underrated tools, across myriad contexts in life and it pertains to routine especially.
If we can be flexible with our day-to-day patterns and healthy habits we are consciously building, I guarantee we’d be better at problem solving, facing conflict or dealing with any other kind of crisis, big or small, in our lives.
But being flexible with our routines requires discipline – the foundation of all that we do/want to do/want to be. That’s all. As long as we show up for ourselves somehow at some point during the day, no matter the order, that’s all that matters. If I can’t be bothered to exercise in the morning, I’ll make sure to do a yoga class in the evening. If I’ve no time on a weekend to do my morning journaling, I’ll find time in the day to do it, because it’s important to me. As with anything that is truly important to you, you will find time to do it one way or another. But don’t let your ego convince you otherwise! Trust your best self who isn’t rooted in your insecurities and old patterns, who wants the best for you: that is not your ego – that is who you really are. Even though your ego will try and convince you otherwise.
So embrace falling out of routine – it’s a pandemic for crying out loud. Embrace experimenting with it and shaking things up a little. Embrace the fear of falling off track knowing that actually, as long as you stay disciplined (however that looks to you), that same fear is redundant and is actually holding you back.
Indeed, what matters the most is practice, no matter how small, as long as it’s consistent, over time you will see progress and get where you want to be. And that consistency will eventually quash that fear that made you ever believe your potential was limited.