I've noticed that life has a way of presenting circumstances that allow (force?) me to learn the lessons I need to learn right when I need to learn them most. So it's no coincidence to me that in the middle of discussing routine and how important it is, life throws me a curveball in which I have to change my routine, one I've become quite fond of over the past couple of months.
I recently re-aggravated a neck injury that has forced me to change my routine. There are some things I can't do right now (work out, sleep comfortably) and some things I have to do now (physical therapy) so that my neck can heal. I feel inconvenienced, irritable, uncomfortable, restless, agitated, etc. Despite all of those negative emotions, I couldn't help but think to myself last night, "What lesson are you learning right now?" accompanied by this strange feeling of excitement that I get when I know I'm on the verge of a breakthrough, some thing I need to see/hear/experience in order to get to the other side of the discomfort.
Last week I shared what routine does for me:
1. It frees my mind to make bigger decisions.
2. It allows me to get into action immediately.
3. It protects my priorities and shows me where they are shifting.
This week I want to focus on changing a routine, especially when we don't want to.
As I've watched areas of my current routine unravel over the past 7-10 days, I've had to cling to the truth of the statements above. For two solid days, I let the old, chaotic Kate spin out and neglect all the parts of the routine I can still maintain. I cut my nose off to spite my face, and I was miserable.
But as a result of the work I've done in defining my priorities and creating routines that support them, I was able to identify quickly, within a matter of days (this would have previously taken months, even years), that rebelling against what was left of my old routine out of resentment towards my new one was not going to work.
So I went straight to what I know does work--TTYR: Tend To Your Routine, and more specifically, get into action immediately.
I had to get myself out of bed, open the blinds, drink some water, take my vitamins, read my daily meditation, meditate, pray, get dressed, go to work, rejoin the living--these are all things an injured neck can't affect. I let myself become so fixated on the parts of my routine that would have to change that I couldn't see how many parts of my routine were still perfectly intact.
One of my favorite personal beliefs about routine (I'm sure there is science to support it somewhere!) is that neurologically, when we do something, in sequence or repetitively, we are effectively telling our brains, "Hey! I'm doing ABC which means you need to get ready for XYZ." Routine sets into motion rhythms in our day that we no longer have to mull and stumble over, or, more succinctly, it frees our minds to make bigger decisions. As soon as I started picking up my routine again, my brain knew what to do next and that uneasiness of, "But now what?!" subsided. The fog lifted and insight found its way back in.
What is the lesson I'm learning right now? I think there are several and I don't think they're all done materializing. But this experience has cemented my belief that routine protects my priorities and shows me where they are shifting. My current set of priorities has been unchanged for close to six months now. When you think about it, that's a pretty significant stretch of time to make no changes to a set of anything. Should we expect different results (or even to maintain the same?) by continuing to do the same things? My experience says probably not.
Change is not on the horizon for me, it's here. My current routine wasn't supporting that natural shift and thus had to change.
Change is hard, and as counterintuitive as it seems, routine prepares us for it. It gives us the ability to take what's working and keep using it to make for a less jarring transition while also allowing us to set down what isn't working so we don't have to carry as heavy a load during the times when we need to be our lightest and most nimble.
Life only puts in our path what we are prepared to take on, and sometimes we get a little injured along the way.