On the Idea of Habits and Routines

Created: September 10th, 2021
Updated: September 10th, 2021
Topics: Personal Development

I think of routines in an analogous fashion to "foundations". They take time to build up, but once habits are properly set within an individual's life, the routine becomes a powerful tool for helping one achieve their goals. Over time I have gathered many ideas about habits and routines, and I fear that if all the ideas are not properly listed, and explored, I will either forget and, or misremeber certain ideas. So, for now, this seems like a good place as any to start tabulating all my thoughts.

  • People can often feel a negative connotation towards habits or routines but it doesn't have to be the case.
    • You don't only have to have bad habits. If planned well and executed properly, beneficial habits can be formed.
    • Routines may sound boring, but I believe that routines are only as boring as an individual makes them. A great example is a gym routine: If you only do the same things over and over again, there is a higher chance you will become bored over time. But if you decide to switch up exercises that still work the same muscles, you can keep things fresh, and interesting.
  • It's natural to idealize the habit forming process with our wants of immediate results, and temporal permanence. We want our sexy body now, and we want it forever. This is a perfect avenue for burnout. Good habits are formed when the focus on the journey of exploration, and iterative improvement. Our brains naturally enjoy learning new things, and seeing progress.
  • When starting a new habit, be careful that you aren't pushing yourself too hard. Start with a small goal that does not change your daily life drastically. It's often easy to buy into the norms of the zeitgiest and start habits that are too difficult. For instance, a lot of people say things like "I'm going to start jogging this year" and then buy new gear, drive to the nearest park with a jogging path, and then try to do 3k on their first day, and try to do it every day. They do this because that is their idea of what "starting to jog" looks like in their minds. Rather than rationalizing what they are capable of doing in a reasonable manner, they end up focusing too much on their ideals of what it should be like.
  • Focus on your relation to the habit, make it as enjoyable as possible. By the very nature of how we work, if you like doing something, you will want to do it more. Many personal development people on the hardcore macho side may argue "if you practice forcing yourself to do hard things, you will grow stronger" and I agree with that statement, but that doesn't mean that every step has to be an anxious life or death struggle. And if every step is made into such a binary challenge, the chances of burn out increase dramatically.

    Going back to jogging, if the idea to start jogging is to lose weight, and improve your circulation, and breathing, it'd be better to start with an easy and enjoyable amount, and truly focus on having a good time. As long as you enjoy it, coming back will be easy. And once you enjoy it enough, you can add in iterative challenges and broaden your knowledge of technique, form and additional skills to give yourself an extra boost to begin enhancing that journey.
  • It is imperative to continually self assess and understand the motives for the habit. It's easy to end up burning out if you get too focused on the iterative challenges. Instead of focusing on the why of the habit, it's very natural for us to become addicted to the basic mindset of improving. Improving is great, and definitely necessary, but if you are forcing yourself to improve without focus on why, it's easy to end up pushing yourself too hard, and in the wrong direction. Which will lead to disappointment and thus burnout. Clearly understanding your goals can help you facilitate better growth over the long term.
    • As a small digression, necessitated by the fact that I don't want to create a completely different post to talk about it: the current habit that I am fixated on is walking. I am walking a shit ton around my neighborhood. Enough that many people probably think I am some kind of crazy person at this point. Thankfully I have a generally positive demeanor so no cops have been called.

      Anyway, the reason why I am walking is for the following reasons:
      • It helps my digestion immensely. As an aging fat man, any small amount of exercise is a plus.
      • It is helping me strengthen my legs, and opening up a wider possibility of future exercises such as jogging, climbing, tennis, dance and golf.
      • It gives me time to practice walking meditation, which helps me strength my focus, as well as help my emotional state.
      • It gives me a chance to have self discussions about my wants, needs and fears. In my current state I feel a bit disconnected socially within myself and with my close others. I believe that by having discussions with myself in a manner that focuses on being clear, and honest in a dilligent manner, and if I respond with logic and critical thinking, I am strengthening my communication skills for future social events, as well as becoming more understanding and familiar with myself.
      • It gives me a chance to practice really listening to myself. Sometimes some of my biggest emotional hurdles and needs is just to be heard and responded to in a caring manner. It is an exercise in compassion.
      • It gives me a chance to clear my mind of clutter by allowing my thoughts to flow without worry and care.