I recently finished Jeremy Dean’s excellent 2013 book Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t, and How to Make Any Change Stick. If you are interested in reading about the motivations of people as it relates to the behavior – as people and as consumers, it’s worth your time.
Mr. Dean wrote an interesting essay on Psychcentral on the subject some time ago.
One of the major themes of the book is how people use routines to be more efficient and how those routines are not necessarily beneficial to your overall health and well -being.
Breaking an old habit or making a new one requires a plan and dedication. What I came away with beyond that is the way that routine is used as an anesthetic.
One of the most basic of routines is taking the same route every time you travel. You’ve no doubt heard the notion of taking a different route to keep things fresh. To break up the routine, even to take the road less traveled. I am a big proponent of breaking out of routines and yet at the same time am also extremely concerned with my own efficiency. And that desire for efficiency does promote the use of the most efficient approach – thereby creating a routine.
A few years ago when I was traveling to Asia and in particular China quite a bit I found myself in a train station in Guangzhou – a city of a mere 13,000,000 in southern China. I was traveling alone, spoke and read limited Chinese and there was little or no English to be seen. Talk about being out of one’s comfort zone and routine! I managed to find my way to the proper train heading back to Hong Kong but there were some uncertain and even nervous moments. One thing I remember well is how ALIVE I felt. All my senses were on high function and I relished the idea of finding my own way – one way or another.
So for me, routines are something to be reviewed and changed as I feel that the more routine things are, the less awareness you have. What’s even more concerning to me is that routine does not promote learning. When we stop learning is when we stop growing and begin to wither little by little.
Be careful about your routines. Use them with caution and change them up for your own good every once in a while. The benefits may not be immediately evident but give it some time.