I’ve often been asked by clients how I create (or how they can create) new routines or habits in life that really stick.
Particularly in those moments when “life gets in the way”.
Given I’ve just been away and completely out of routine for the past three and a half weeks, it feels like a prime time to work out, how is it exactly that I piece the puzzle back together?
I’m somewhat of an idealist at heart (must be my Libran tendencies?), meaning that I often set out on new adventures, periods of full-on diary time, or even for mini breaks, thinking that I will keep my routine beautifully intact.
Like, the fact that I always pack my runners to go walking (I wore them a total of three times this trip, and on previous occasions I haven’t even touched them!), and how I take my oats with me, even if I’m only away for one night. Oh, and I even packed my swimming goggle this trip, thinking, “wouldn’t it be lovely to find a big lap pool to get some exercise in”.
And, sometimes, things really do run swimmingly – I even remember to soak my oats overnight, I’m up before everyone else and I have meditated, journaled and walked before the day has even really begun.
But, let’s face it, those times are much fewer. Particularly on longer trips where the variables of what I can control become fewer too.
That’s the thing with creating routines and healthy habits, what you can control is only your response to your situation and what is happening around you. You don’t have control over the external factors – like whether your plane gets delayed, your friend shuffles your coffee date, or it’s raining on the day you allocated for a long beach walk.
In previous years I would have got myself soooo worked up about it. I would have thought I was a terrible person for not being capable of ‘keeping it up’ while away. This last trip though, I let it go quickly and smoothly. I was clear over which bits were in my control and which bits weren’t.
There’s four key ingredients I’ve decided are necessary in order to return to your personal rhythm and routines, and all have been essential for me being able to swiftly adjust when I’m in between those “life gets in the way” moment.
- Setting clear intentions.
When I went away this time, my intention was clear – I was going to be fully present. So if I felt myself get all tense and stressed about ‘stuffing up my routine’, I could ask myself “Am I being fully present right now?”. It made it way easier to release the tension and melt into the beauty of the moment (like running through the sprinkler with my niece instead of worrying that I wasn’t going for a walk).
2. Knowing what works for you.
I’ve spent years getting to ‘know myself’. And that means knowing what practices and routines work really well for me. This clarity means I’ve got an easy access list when I feel the unraveling coming on. For me, it’s stuff like movement (walks work wonders!) and early nights.
- Mini moments.
Even if you can’t maintain your FULL routine always, there’s always opportunities to insert mini moments or top ups into your day. Like taking a few minutes to return to deep breaths. Or choosing to walk to the shop at the end of the road instead of drive. Doing a few yoga stretches as you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. Or simply walking slower. Appreciating all those in between moments really does keep the fuel firing.
4. Picking it up again.
It doesn’t really matter when, or how fast, you return to your routine. What matters is that you do – and you’re not so hard on yourself about it. I think of it like when you’re meditating and the teacher guiding you keeps reminding you to simply ‘notice your thoughts, then return to your breath’. It really can be that easy. Notice when you’re off track or not on routine, then simply return as much as possible. No big fuss. Like taking another breath.
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