What demands more discipline than a routine? Flexibility.
“Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition.”
As the New Year approaches, many of us will commit to new ways to become better versions of ourselves. Whether it’s to become fitter and faster or bigger and better, we all invariably commit to one new resolution if we are to be successful in accomplishing it.
The resolution of a new routine.
New Year, New-whatever I want
We know that in order for us to lose weight, gain more clients or read more books, we need to make a change to our daily lives.
We know that small, incremental changes to our day can compound over months and years (if we’re actually that committed) to make the profound changes in ourselves. The changes that we are looking to achieve.
So we commit to waking up earlier to get a workout in before work.
Or we commit to preparing our meals to save time and money.
We will also decide that it’s best if we drink less alcohol and therefore proclaim we won’t be going out after work on the weekday.
We create new routines for ourselves to make sure we stay on course and hit our goals.
Here is a typical routine a lot of people will live by for the first few weeks of the New Year.
- 6am: Wake-up
- 6:30: Leave for gym, listen to inspiring podcast on the way.
- 7am: Gym
- 8:30am: Leave for work
- 9am: Arrive at work feeling accomplished and superior.
It’s simple and straight-forward with not many moving parts. Brilliant!
Do this enough times and you can rely on the power of habit to take over in the morning.
This is the beauty of habit: once you programme what you want to do (by means of repetition), your brain engages auto-pilot so you don’t have to think about it much anymore
So the next thing you realise after you wake-up is that you’ve finished your workout and you’re already sitting at the office having completed your workout with minimal mental energy expended.
Wonderful! 6-packs for everyone!
The initial discipline it took to get out of bed and get to the gym becomes so engrained in your routine, you simply don’t have to think about it that much anymore. Everything just happens automatically. Great!
But that would be too easy.
We can only wish that life operated in such a consistent and pre-defined manner.
But we all know that things come up that inevitably throw a spanner in the works.
Something could come up the night before that means that you get to sleep late.
Or you get invited out to a birthday party — and you can’t let your friends know how boring you’ve become.
Either way, something comes up which disrupts your routine and instead of figuring out how to make it work, you simply decide that too much is prohibiting you from your what you need to do.
So you don’t do it at all that day.
More likely than not, whatever does come up though isn’t actually that prohibitive.
In fact, it’s mostly because you lost that auto-pilot routine you’ve been relying on and have to re-engage some effort to get what you need to do, done.
You have been coasting on your habit and now that something came up to disrupt it, you threw it all away because it didn’t fit in to your perfect routine.
Your routine no longer serves you.
Rolling with the punches
A lot of folks will say it takes discipline to stick to a routine.
They are right in that it initially does take discipline to get it up and running. But as mentioned before, once the habits are formed then it’s all smooth sailing from there on out. Your lizard brain takes over.
The real discipline is formed when your routine is inevitably disrupted by life and you have to make it work regardless.
The discipline of flexibility sounds like a contradiction but it’s a much stronger form of commitment that a dogmatic routine that must be followed.
If you didn’t sleep well in the night and are simply too exhausted to practice your yoga in the morning, are you committed enough to your practice to do it in the evening instead?
If you didn’t get to read the book you said you would during your usual time, are you going to catch up later in the day?
This is a form of discipline that is harder to form than simply following a routine.
It’s commitment to the cause of what you want to achieve.
Truthfully, I write this for myself as it’s what I need to hear.
I am the religious routine-follower.
If something disrupts my morning routine, I don’t do any of it and feel shitty because of it. My commitments aren’t properly set up.
So going into the New Year, don’t just think of how or when you’re going to go workout or meet new people or find a new partner.
Think about why and your commitment won’t waver.
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