The less routine, the more life. – Amos Bronson Alcott
I have never been a fan of routine. I get bored easily doing the same things over and over. I’ve always look for jobs that offer a variety of responsibilities. I get tired of cooking the same things for dinner week after week. If I stay in one place too long, I begin to feel a familiar itch. And yet, once I had children, I found that they (or at least mine) craved routine. They liked to wake up in the same place, surrounded by the same things. They liked to eat the same foods. They liked to do the same things, in the same order, at the same time, each day before bed.
And so, as I parent, I began to settle into routines. Routines for waking up, routines for nap time, routines for meal time, bed time, bath time. I settled into everyday routines necessary for taking care of a family – grocery shopping, laundry, meal preparation. And as much as I dislike routines, I found them useful when we went on vacation or moved to a new home. Routine can help children (and even adults) to feel secure in the midst of chaos or transition. However, routines can also be numbing, lulling you into a state of semi-consciousness that you are unaware you inhabit until you experience a moment of out-of-routine clarity.
I had such a moment recently on a holiday trip with my family. We’d travelled all day – by plane, taxi, bus and boat – to arrive at our destination, where we had a quick dinner before taking a final ride in the back of a pick-up truck, to our hotel. At one point in the ride, I was filled with an overwhelming sense of exhilaration.
We were outside!
In the dark!
Now while these thoughts may seem mundane, obvious and trivial to most of the population, to us, parents of young children, they were thrilling!
For the rest of our holiday, we broke out of our regular routine as most people do when they are away from home, but that feeling of freedom made an impact. I wanted more. I realized how much I missed feeling inspired, spontaneous and truly joyful for an extended period of time. I had become so rooted in our schedule; I hadn’t even realized what I was missing. And yet, when we returned home, we fell back immediately into our comfortable daily routines.
A few weeks later, I was feeling caged in and restless, and suggested that we all have an early dinner and walk to a local park for a change. Walking, hand-in-hand with my 4-year-old, jumping over cracks in the sidewalk to the park, where we played tag and chased each other around, that feeling of freedom and exhilaration returned.
It wasn’t just being outside – although that always helps – it was more breaking out of our routine, realizing that we aren’t slaves to predictability, that there isn’t just one right way or any right way. That we have the option, at any time, to do things differently, to add a little spice to our lives.
I realized that it is not the routine moments, that blur in their sameness, that bring us joy or that are seared in our memories. It is the times we break free of our own rules and do something different.
- The fully clothed two-year-old covered in mud from flinging herself in puddles in the front yard.
- The joy on the face of our three-year-old the night we let her stay up late to catch fireflies.
- The four-year-old grinning in the moonlight, laughing at the breeze in her face as the pick-up taxi winds its way up a mountain road, her two-year-old brother shouting gleefully at the moon he rarely sees.
- The questioning glance, that turns to a smile of delight when little faces realize that what was once taboo is being encouraged, even if just this once.
- The scenic route we wouldn’t have taken.
- The hidden cafe we wouldn’t have discovered.
- The new friend we wouldn’t have met.
While many of you may be spontaneous, adventure seeking pioneers, for those of you for whom life has become routine, breaking out of your routine once in a while can be a great way to bring more consciousness, and joy, to your day. It doesn’t have to be something big, like taking a vacation or going away on holiday. It can be as simple as going to a new restaurant instead of your old standby, taking a new route home, talking to someone you’ve never talked to before; anything that takes you out of your typical routine.
The results can be refreshing, motivating, inspiring.
According to psychologists, when we follow the same patterns and routines for extended periods of time, the pathways in our brains become deep ravines, well worn paths, that can be hard to stray from. Yet when we learn a new skill or encounter a novel object, new connections are formed in our brains, allowing us to grow and thrive.
For the sake of your memories, your brain and your desire for a more conscious life, break out of your routine one day this week and see where it leads you.
For more on how to break out of your routine read here, here, or here (specifically for parents).
Thanks for reading!
What about you? Have you found inspiration by doing things a little differently lately? If so, I’d love to hear about them.
Sharon, Author of The Conscious Parenting Notebook