Routine is doing what you want


If you eat pumpkin pie for breakfast, every single day, that is a routine. Ditto for kicking off your summers by hunting wild boar with a sawed-off shotgun. If you end every phone call with “I love you,“ that qualifies too. A routine is doing what you want, as much as you want to. And that is a life well lived.

Routine is related to “route” which implies a path to some goal. But over-emphasizing goals is a mistake. Goals are mile-markers used to track progress. You live in their shadow until the moment they pass by.

Routines are tangible. Actions and intentions, performed repeatedly. You experience them with your body. While goals are arbitrary abstractions that dwell in your mind.

For pure acheivement, bias towards goals. For achievement and contentment, bias toward routines.

One might object: “Goals are more important. I can’t reach {abstract goal} related to human perfection without doing {routine} that I don’t want to do every day.”

Consider this: You may not want that {abstract goal} at all. To have a goal is to want the process that gets you there. Otherwise, it’s just a dream.

The converse is also true: if your treasured breakfast pie leads you somewhere you don’t want to go, you may need to abandon your routine. Goals and routines work together and you have to want both.

One further objects, “But routines are just so repetitive.”

Consider this: Isn’t that fabulous? Once you ditch goals you don’t want and commit to doing activities you do want, why wouldn’t you do them again and again?

There is power in process and repetition. Repetition breeds affection, and it is the path to depth, meaning, and growth. Repeated trials is where the magic happens.

Yes, novelty is liberating for the mind. But it can only take shape against a backdrop of familiarity. You need a rhythm before you can break into a solo. You need a little friction before you can take flight.