Today I realised that for the last two weeks, I’d basically done the same thing for breakfast everyday – eating a ‘healthy’ fruit and yoghurt at home. I had blindly created a little routine.
So this morning in order to break this routine, I went out to a cafe I’d never been before and ordered breakfast. And just to make sure, on the way home I stopped by an organic shop and bought some grocery items that I’d never bought before.
This doesn’t sound like much of an achievement, and in fact it was very easy thing to do. However adjusting my behavior at this micro level lays the foundation for a much more significant impact on my life on a macro level.
The Routine Trap
A hunter that is worth his salt does not catch game because he sets his traps, or because he knows the routines of his prey, but because he himself has no routines. He is free, fluid, unpredictable.
Don Juan, from Journey to Ixtlan – Carlos Castaneda
I think one of the most wasteful, and possibly even dangerous human characteristics is routine behavior.
It’s like a gigantic sprawling spiders web keeping us bound and restricted, that from an early age permeates our entire existence, ready to immediately ensnare us again should we momentarily break free. Even with my ridiculously free “hoboCEO” lifestyle, I still find myself falling back into this behavior automatically creating new routines, no matter how pointless or arbitrary.
Routines dull the mind, they become entrenched and unquestioned and over time once arbitrary choices become mandatory. Comfortable routines gradually become an addiction, stifling change acting as a buttress to the fear of the unknown. They bind us to being mere animals, like little robots with predictable and mundane behavior.
“Routines can be a good thing”, I hear you protest. Well yes, if you want to learn a new skill, get fit a certain amount of discipline will surely help you progress. But can you leave it at just that? Apart from your deliberate chosen routines, say for example kettle bell training for 20mins every morning, can you live the rest of your life fluid and unchartered?
I suspect few of us have ever even tried.
Another fresh baby forced into the human mold
Since you made your entrance into the world as a new born all gooey and screaming, your life has been sculpted by those around you, who have conspired to have you conditioned into their ways of the world. Sometimes subtly and sometimes with force, routine is been forced upon us almost every day of our lives.
In Japan children learn, “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down”.
Anyone how has lived in the land of the rising sun will be able to attest to the extreme level of conformity, where routine and form is more important that substance1. Whilst on the surface other countries may appear less addicted to conformity and routine, I see they merely differ by degrees.
So it’s understandable from all this conditioning that we humans are all locked together in a clumsy mess of interconnected routines.
Breaking the mold
A rare few people manage to change their mold, people like myself who walk more pioneering/unusual paths, but having unusual routines is not living without routines. Though it is perhaps a step in the right direction.
Some of the most joyous moments of my life have been when I’d stepped out of routine behavior, when I stopped habitually answering the phone, when I suddenly moved to Berlin, took weekdays off to go to the beach and kitesurf (kitesurfing is a good sport for breaking routines, you are entirely reliant on wind conditions, so there’s little hope of planning in advance).
Stepping outside of routine life, is stepping into a life of vibrancy and vast possibility. Living outside of the comfort of routine is to be awake, to be daring, to be truly alive. We need this to avoid stagnation and slow death. If you eat the same meal everyday, your body will likely weaken and fail. If you stay in the same place all your life, you will surely be tired and frustrated.
Small baby steps towards change
You could begin by not eating lunch every single day at twelve o’clock.
Don Juan, from Journey to Ixtlan – Carlos Castaneda
Do something different every day, every hour even. Walk to work a different way every time, buy food you’d never normally buy, talk to people you don’t know, use a paper map instead of your iPhone, cycle across town and go to a new cafe for breakfast, wake up late, go to bed early.
Bring new behavior into your life on the micro level, be aware of your every moment, be alert and observe your deeply engrained “harmless” routines, and give them a little twist, embrace the unknown. Forge new neural pathways, rescue yourself from habitual thought patterns that are nurtured by routine, elude the expectations of those that think they know you. Moreover, elude the expectations you have of yourself don’t limit yourself with your own opinions of what/who you are.
In a sense, it was breaking from routine that started me on my path to being a “hoboCEO”. I could have continued on the path I’d set, with my comfortable life and friends surrounding, earning more money, buying more stuff, but then I suddenly moved to Japan and didn’t come back. There’s no way I could have for seen how totally my life would change, the people I’d meet plus all the opportunities and experiences I’d have.
It is this simple idea of breaking routine on a micro level that laid the foundations for breaking routine at all levels. And I continue now, moving location every few months, and also having breakfast in different cafes