Own Your Routine, Don't Let it Own You
How biscuits and hash browns can orient your heart for the day ahead.
I LOVE routines. Anything I can do to simplify my decisions each day? Sign me up. Sometimes, it’s a good thing: I’m able to set up my schedule in a way that allows me to accomplish certain habits with less self-control than if I made the decision each day to do (or not do) a given thing. Yet, it’s not all sunshine and roses. Believe it or not, we can find ourselves becoming restricted by our routines, even the good ones.
Think about the last time you decided to start a new routine. It seems like often we start by seeing something someone else does, and we try to fit that routine into our lives. It might be a great routine, but somehow, it just doesn’t click like it should. Here’s where I think we go wrong: we build the routine before we stop to ask one simple question. What’s the point?
Take a morning routine, for example. You don’t have to search very far in the world of self-improvement books, podcasts, or influencers to find a pretty and polished morning routine that promises to change your life. Odds are, it includes something like yoga, sitting on a beautiful balcony with a cup of perfectly-brewed coffee, reading, journaling, meditating, and the list goes on. Maybe you armed yourself with a yoga mat and a coffee mug and set your alarm far earlier than you’d like and tried it out, but it wasn’t very zen-like for you. I’ve tried the same.
These ideas all look like what a successful, self-actualized person does for a morning routine, right? Yet, because we didn’t stop to ask if it was the right routine for us, it didn’t achieve the desired results.
If we want to have a routine we love, we have to start with the question: “What’s the point?” That is, what do you want the results to be? Is it that you have certain tasks you need to get done in the day, and the morning is the best time to do them? Is it that you have a better day if you do certain things before starting the workday? Maybe it’s that you can start the day knowing you’ve already won at something, even if it’s as simple as making your bed before you leave your room to brush your teeth. Only once we’ve established the purpose of the routine can we build one that actually works for us.
Now, we started with the idea that sometimes our routines can own us more than we own them; now that we’ve established the importance of the purpose, we can go beyond and recognize that sometimes to achieve the purpose, we actually let go of the routine. Sounds crazy, I know, but just stick with me.
Recently, a dear friend came to visit me in my new apartment. It was a weeknight, and after dinner and a long chat on my couch, we made plans for the morning. On any normal workday, I’d have my morning routine all planned out, and typically, I protect that time like it’s gold. Yet, here was my dilemma: I had a short amount of time with my friend, and I had to choose between the morning routine and extra time with her at breakfast.
This is where the purpose came in. I have reasons for each element of the routine, but the primary goal for those couple hours before my workday is this: to prepare my heart for the day in such a way that I will best live out my faith. This means being more generous, more patient, more loving, more grateful, more productive… I think you understand. But, when I thought about the time I would spend with my friend, it hit me that my typical morning routine is not the only way to achieve that goal. Spending time with someone who refreshes my soul and reminds me of what it means to live life as a more loving human is also a way to orient my heart for the day.
So, I found myself sharing conversations about life and relationships and the future over biscuits and eggs and hash browns at the local breakfast diner instead of quietly drinking tea and journaling. And, you know what? It was a really good day.
Journal Prompt of the Week
If you have a morning routine, what is its purpose? If you don’t yet, what would you want the purpose to be?
Before you go…
Come back in two weeks for a reflection guide to help you on your journey to live a more purposeful life by establishing a routine that works for you, not just some random person on the internet.