As we so often search for consistency, pattern, and familiarity in our lives—especially amidst chaos—it is important to note that creating a routine can help.
And when I say a routine, I do not mean habit. I do not mean creating a habit. So what is the difference?
Both can be something to work on and form over time, but the big, big difference is that routine will never ever be automatic. I know, you may think it’s a bummer but let’s unpack it further.
Think of habits as a form of learning. A kid learning how to wash her hands requires her to turn on the faucet, pump the soap, scrub, turn off the faucet and towel off. Have you seen a kid fumble with this learning process? Have the soap in hand but the water not running? Be ready to dry her hands but the faucet is still on? She is still learning the steps. But you can infer that over time, the act of washing hands becomes automatic. How many times do you consider the exact steps needed to wash your hands as an adult? Almost never, right? Because it’s automatic. Who has the brain capacity to think about all those steps anyway? The point of a habit is that it DOES become automatic. And that’s great. It takes away brainpower from decision making and allows you to put it towards something more useful. The initial effort it first takes to form a habit requires your prefrontal cortex (the part of your brain needed for planning and attention), but over time, repetition allows you to drop into a flow where you don’t need to remember how to wash your hands, you just do it.
This also means however that behaviors that require concentration, deliberation, and extended effort are not habits. And that’s what makes it different from a routine. A routine is never automatic. Routine requires conscious effort, thought, and work. So if you are not succeeding at forming a habit, chances are it’s not a habit, but a routine that you are trying to establish. And that’s the good news. In life, things worth doing are not our automatic actions. I don’t know about you, but I do not live to remember brushing my teeth or washing my hands. I would rather establish challenging routines in my life that take some work—like committing to practices of yoga and meditation, and clean eating. These things will always take a bit of conscious effort, but the reward is always great when you choose the routine that positively impacts your life.
Take a moment and think of a routine you have been working on or established over time. Maybe it’s exercise, clean eating, or creating order in your life. Do you fall off the wagon and have to remind yourself why it’s important to stick to it? Do you have days you feel like doing the opposite? If you answered yes—GREAT! It means you are human, and it means that you understand the requirements for growth and evolution. You have to keep making the conscious effort.
Always remember that the human default is comfort. No one really wants to stay stagnant. But if you want to grow, you have to put in the effort. The only way through is in. Let’s create some new routines. Are you in?
Réka and The Ignite Yoga Team