Routine and Habit: Fan the Flames

Way back in August 2013, I wrote a post about how routine was similar to armor, and have referred back to it in a number of more recent posts. When writing this article, I discovered that it had never been published: sitting as a draft for the last 2 years! Suffice to say it is now live, along with the video content I shot at the time.

Over the last couple years, I’ve come to appreciate the power and vitality of what routine provides. It is essentially the building block of what creates good habits, and it’s often difficult to try and understand just exactly what the differences are.change-old-street-sign-bigst

You need a routine, in order to build a habit. But you can’t have habits, without proper routines. Now a habit is something you do unconsciously, whereas routine is something you pay attention to. A habit can be good or bad: usually the more effortless ones tend to be a bit more self destructive or self indulgent – It’s easy to fall into the habit of having some chocolate after each meal : the habit is also a reward, and that reward (sugar) is pretty darn easy to convince ourselves to include on a regular basis! The routine of the chocolate becomes an easy, mindless habit.

Did you catch what I just said there? Obviously the important word here is mindless, and it’s also the key to unlocking the power of productive and healthy, positive routines – those that will birth habits we can be proud of. By being mindful instead, by living in the moment of each action or thought we want to turn into routine, into habit, we activate the inspiration that sparked our desire for conscious change in the first place: It sets the match to the fuel.

Let’s take a look at some tools and techniques to set ourselves up for success. Naturally, it’s repetition that leads to progress: the more often we repeat something, the easier it “sticks” – and the more out of place we feel when we don’t do it. This has been realized and implemented as “gamification” by a number of different companies and tools, where rewards as “badges”, virtual “trophies” and other such marks of distinction are awarded to those who show dedication and time vested in something that requires focus and careful patience/dedication. So we understand that repetition is important for making routines into habits, and apps like Rewire replace those huge wall calendars we’re familiar seeing in movies: the ones where the protagonist marks huge “X’s” on each day as things progress. The apps work well because they let you mark more than one “X” every day for subgoals.

So now we understand a bit more as to how to differentiate between routines and habits, how they are integrated, but also how to set ourselves up for success.

What spurs your desires to change? How can you set yourself up to success versus falling into old, easy habits?