I’ll Have the Unusual

I have a new year’s resolution. Yes, I know we just left September behind, but the fall signifies a new year for me because the school calendar trumps the Gregorian when you’ve worked in a school for thirty years.
My new year’s resolution is to adopt a new morning routine that includes twenty minutes of yoga.
And this started me thinking about the relationship between routines and habits, as well as the pros and cons of having them.
Routines sometimes evolve naturally (like driving to work using the most direct route), and sometimes become established intentionally (like flossing your teeth daily). When engaged in long enough, routines become habits.
Habits are mostly our routines performed with automaticity and without much thought. This then further reinforces and maintains the routine.
But when are routines helpful, and when do they hinder?
I doubt anyone would argue the benefit of starting the day with exercise. Clearly such a routine would be considered wise and healthy. Many people have routines that are considered beneficial by most standards. These include routines such as drinking large quantities of water daily and exercising regularly.
And then there are the routines that we’ve established to be more efficient and productive. These might not necessarily be healthy or beneficial, but they make our lives easier, and tend to be more individualized. For example, I stop at the post office before the cleaners because I pass it first. For someone else, geography might dictate the opposite.
I like routines, perhaps because I prefer organization and having a plan rather than making it up as I go. And, as I’ve discussed before here, getting lots done makes me very happy.
But routines and habits can also pose a danger if we allow our days to slip by on autopilot. And it’s so easy to do just that.
While driving to work the other day, I was forced to take a detour. I work only five miles from my house and thought I could find my way without following the detour.
I’m embarrassed to admit it took me three times as long to get to work because I drove down one unfamiliar street after another, completely lost in my own town.
I should also add I’ve lived in this area for almost twenty years,
So for nearly two decades, I’ve taken the same roads to and from work, the supermarket, bank, cleaners, card store and post office. I’ve never deviated from the most direct route. I’ve never explored side streets.
Just the same routes over and over.
There’s something very efficient, and yet very sad, about that.
So routines, if adhered to with unwavering consistency, can cause us to become “set in our ways”.
I know the expression is usually reserved for crotchety, inflexible old people who sit in the same pew at church Sunday after Sunday and insist on eating at the exact same time every day.
But I still have to ask myself, am I becoming that person?
Do I commit myself to routines in order to maximize productivity but then lose sight of the everything happening on the sidelines?
There is a delicate balance between doing things that work best for us, and challenging ourselves by trying new things.
Every once in a while, we need to break our own routines in order to see that there’s a whole world going on outside of our tunnel-vision view.
I know what I like to read, but gave my full attention to the fantasy selected by my book club. The Sparrow (by Maria Doria Russell) was awesome and I’m so glad I didn’t skim it or choose to skip that meeting simply because I anticipated being bored by the book and discussion.
I know what I like to eat, but bravely tried the octopus so lovingly prepared as a sign of cultural hospitality. I actually ate this and can say with all honestly – it was delicious!
I know what kind of music I like, but will agree to attend a concert of a band I’ve never heard of before.
I know what I like to wear, but will bring something completely out of character into the fitting room, simply out of curiosity. I usually end up stifling my laughter as I see my reflection, but one of these days I might find a new style that looks well on me.
Breaking our routines and stepping out of our comfort zones can be a little scary sometimes, but often worth it.
By doing so, we encounter opportunities to experience life in novel ways. We can discover hidden talents, ignite new passions, or unlock long forgotten dreams.
Completing the same routines day after day, however, often does the opposite.
We become oblivious to the sights, sounds, smells and touches that are part of our “normal”. And it is in that lack of awareness that we start to take things for granted and lose our appreciation for what we’ve been so generously given by God.
So I’m setting my alarm for twenty minutes earlier to start my day with stretches and deep breaths on the yoga mat.
But I’ll also take a different route the next time I go visit my sister.
Preferred activities, hobbies and interests are usually well established once we’ve been an adult for several decades, but when was the last time you tried something new? How can you introduce a little novelty into your day today?

  • Tom
    October 3, 2016

    This might be a bit of a stretch but developing new life style changes (started by new ways of thinking) is Biblical. Here’s what Paul tells us in Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” He tells us not to conform to patterns and to renew our minds – all for God’s glory of course!

    On a lighter note you are NOT picking where we all go for dinner next….

    • Jo-Ann
      October 4, 2016

      Thanks for the Biblical application! Yes, a renewed mind is the place to start when committing to a lifestyle change. And as for my food choices…in this case, politeness was very satisfying! Tasted like chicken! (just kidding of course). 🙂

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