When to Pull the Plug on Routine

–by Farah Merani–

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Too often, we find ourselves coasting. Going through the daily grind of waking up, getting ready and out the door, off to work/school/life, ending the day back at home, preparing dinner, watching TV (or insert favourite activity) and off to bed. Only to repeat the same sequence day after day. There is some comfort in knowing that you can count on certain things on a regular basis (like a paycheck!). There’s power in routine, allowing you to target on what’s most important to you and gives your mind the freedom to focus. But that shouldn’t mean that you become a slave to it. In fact, breaking routine is just as important as building one.

It’s easy to follow a routine that someone else sets for you. Whether it’s a work schedule or a fitness program set by a trainer, when you’re accountable to someone else you’re more likely to do what’s been given to you. Deflecting responsibility onto another person diminishes your own impulse for action. You’re doing what you’re supposed to do or you face the consequences. They may not be life threatening but knowing that they’re there provides a significant amount of motivation. All you have to do is look at gym membership registrations and participation in January to see this.

Breaking routine can help you achieve success and happiness

Breaking routine can help you achieve success and happiness

The danger with this happens when you’ve given over all the decision-making power to someone else. This is when the time comes to break the structure you’ve set for yourself and reclaim some sense of balance. If for nothing else, the little bubble of glee that emerges when you know you’ve done something you’re ‘not supposed’ to do. Caution: If you’re always breaking the routine, then you probably don’t have much of one to start with.

A common analogy is that of music and art. Ballet dancers learn and practice a very rigid set of positions and movements knowing that once they been mastered, they’ll be able to learn the choreography and bring their artistry to it without having to think about the basics. The beauty and mastery of their work emerges because of the break. Similarly, the structure we give ourselves also gives us the opportunity to be our most creative selves. Intentional and committed rule-breaking lets us find the moments of inspiration and excitement that keep us working towards greater things.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is set the boundaries that will make your life function most optimally. And then, sometimes it gets even better when you can break the rules and find joy, inspiration and energy within it.