Everything in moderation, they say. Does that include moderation in moderation?
One thing it certainly does include is routine.
No routine in life would drive anyone crazy, but most people are surprised to learn they suffer dearly from the opposite: too much routine.
When we’re children, we certainly do live within some routine. But our young lives are also chock full of intense experiences … new encounters for the mind, body and spirit that engage us, teach us, and transform us into something more.
But I have studied this for years, and one thing separates remarkably successful adults – those who have achieved great goals, and deep contentment – from virtually everyone else:
While remarkably successful people incorporate routine into their lives, they also remain vigilantly committed, like children, to having new intense experiences. They prevent excessive routine – the same old same old -- from stifling their growth, freedom and happiness by constantly engaging in new encounters for the mind, body and spirit.
Meanwhile, virtually everyone else gets “bogged down in routine.”
That is really an apt metaphor, because if you ever literally fell into a deep bog you’d find it nearly impossible to move. Furthermore, bogs can be deceptive, appearing to be a peaceful part of the landscape until someone steps into them.
Too much routine, a lack of new intense experiences, may disguise itself as a peaceful and content life, but it actually leads to the opposite. It stifles, frustrates, leaves you feeling restless and anxious and like “Is this all there is?” It suffocates success and happiness.
You are not meant to do the same things over and over. Just as you are meant to exercise and challenge your muscles constantly to stay young, energetic, and healthy, you are meant to exercise and challenge your mind, heart and spirit to stay young, energetic and happy.
What makes matters even worse is that so much of the routine that people get trapped in is routine mediocrity. We consume with our mouths. But we also consume with our eyes, noses, and ears. And from unhealthy processed foods to unhealthy processed TV to the unhealthy processed landscapes most people pass through routinely – Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, anybody? – people are inhaling fat gobs of mind-, heart- and spirit-poisoning mediocrity.
Not only are people trapped in routine, that is, but so much of the routine is lethal. And it’s no wonder that people lack the energy they should have and feel overwhelmed, stressed-out, over-worried, empty, lonely, unfulfilled … and that depression rates are higher than they’ve ever been.
The good news, though, is that there is a rather simple and even enjoyable way out. And what follows is a really good place to start:
Make a List, Check It Twice
When I have coached individuals, and to be honest when I have worked on myself, the one and only barrier I am always up against is ego.
That is, insights like those above make great sense when they’re applied to people in general, but as soon as we turn those insights inward on ourselves, our egos want to go on the defensive.
“Yeah, that’s right about most people,” the ego likes to try to insist, “but that doesn’t apply to me.” And then it invents a thousand-and-one reasons why that is so.
So for the following intense experience, I’d like to kindly ask you to kindly ask your ego to step aside. Let it chatter all it wants from the sidelines, but in the meantime for this to be effective be completely honest with yourself in contemplating and creating the following.
And the experience I am asking you to engage your mind in – and your hands in, as you should definitely write down your findings for examination and reminder – is this:
Visually walk through your daily life. Visually walk through your weekends. And catalog all of your routines.
This can mean you simply create a bullet-point list of your routines, or if it is more your style you can write out a short description of each of your routines.
There are a few simple ways to approach examining your routine.
If you are a “structured” person, you can go in linear fashion: start from when you wake up, and catalog your routines through your typical day. Do the same for the weekend.
If you aren’t so structured, you may want to instead contemplate your routines by examining your life from a “topical” perspective: that is, what are your routines in terms of your marriage/relationships? Your work? Your “down-time” at the end of the day? How you entertain yourself? Your vacations? Etc.
And if you aren’t so structured, heed this…
A serious caution is in order: do not mistake a lack of organization in some (or many) parts of your life with a lack of routine.
Some people do in fact do the same things at nearly the same times every day, whereas many others are caught in routines that seem to happen haphazardly on no given schedule.
Many (many, many) people believe that just because their life seems hectic and they don’t know whether they are coming or going sometimes that they “lack routine.”
They are not the same things at all.
Most people with this belief find that they ARE doing the same things over and over, but they’re just not doing them within a fixed structure. There is still the same need for new intense experiences, that is (and some organizational coaching may also be helpful if someone in this situation chooses.)
A Boost to Get You Started
While you should even catalog all of the necessary routines like showering (assuming you find it necessary) and eating so that you can see them all there on the page, here are some questions to give you a boost in areas that many people don’t immediately realize they are living routine:
• Do you travel the same route to and from work everyday? What do you do while en route?
• If you are married or in a serious relationship, what do you and your other typically talk about? Do together? Is there routine in your sexuality?
• What do you do when you return home after work (or when you stop working, if you work at home) up until the time you go to sleep?
• From your children to your siblings and other family to your friends, do you talk with and do things with mostly the same people? What are the things you talk about and do with them? Break it down by each person.
• What do you eat and drink for breakfast, lunch, dinner and in between? What are the patterns / routines there?
• If you go out to eat, where do you go? What do you eat?
• What types of music do you listen to?
• When you are online, what do you tend to do? Where do you go on the Internet?
• On the weekend, what do you do?
• What types of errands to you find yourself running in the “personal business” of your life?
• Do you watch TV? What do you watch? Do you watch a lot of the same “types” of shows … news programs, crime shows, sitcoms, game shows, etc.?
• Same thing for movies … what do you watch? Are they a lot of the same type of movies?
• If you have “free time” on a weekend, how do you typically spend it?
• When you go on vacations, is there a typical type of place you go and typical things you do?
It’s Your Time, Your Energy, Your Life
These above are some key questions to give you a boost in contemplating the routines in your life.
Again, it is remarkably helpful to write down the routines you find throughout your life … in short simple phrases or longer descriptions, as you choose … in a linear fashion, or grouped by topic, or at least just all in no particular order there on the page(s), as you choose.
And then review your routines.
Review how and where you are spending the time and energy of your life. And ask yourself if you aren’t getting bogged down by routine. (Remember, your ego may want to protest, but keep its chatter on the sidelines.)
Ask yourself, “If I am not fully satisfied with my life right now, how can I expect to change, to improve, if I keep doing all the same things that I always do?”
Where in the world will the positive changes come from if you don’t change where you are investing your time and energy, your mind, heart, body and spirit?
If you keep doing what you are doing in life, of course, you will keep getting exactly what you get in life. Or really you will keep getting less, as excessive routine tends to grind the mind, heart, body and spirit down, as I already noted.
This “A to Z awareness” of your routines, of where you are investing your time and energy, is the first step important step in your journey to achieving whatever it is you know you are meant to achieve – in your career, finances, health, relationships and beyond – and in achieving far greater inner-peace and happiness.
The next step, of course, is the fun part: eliminating some of those routines and instead incorporating new intense experiences into your life.
And as I started this piece of by noting, I spent many years studying highly successful and very happy people. I discovered that they focus their time and energy on new intense experiences … and particularly in nine areas of intense experiences that most other people don’t focus on at all.
The result of all that research (and working closely with them, and coaching others, and writing and rewriting the material, and testing it over years, etc.) is The 9 Intense Experiences, which Wiley publishing released earlier this year and which hit #1 in the U.S., Canada, and Australia (and is even been published in Chinese for release later this year!
The 9 Intense Experiences provides you from eight to twelve different simple but profound “actions” within each of the nine intense experience areas that you can do to rapidly free yourself from “the bog” … you’ll quickly bust through negative thoughts and emotions holding you down in life, discover absolutely amazing things about yourself and the world around you, and be equipped with far greater energy and clarity to achieve whatever matters most to you.
As most powerful, transformative experiences are, the eight to twelve actions within each of the nine intense experiences are enjoyable and easy to do – they don’t require you to abandon your job or turn your life upside down in any way – and yet they provide powerful benefits back to you.
Whether you choose to give your life a serious boost upward with The 9 Intense Experiences or not, though, I do encourage you to review the routines in your life and figure out where you can:
A) Eliminate the excess and
B) Replace it with new intense experiences … doing things that take you deeper, that keep challenging you, that keep expanding you.
I also encourage you to pin that list of routines to your wall so you can keep reminding yourself never to get bogged down again.
Excess routine – especially when many of the routines are mediocre poison – are more deadening to the mind, body, heart and spirit than most people realize. It is as destructive as destructive gets in relation to achieving success and happiness.
But if you take the actions described above, if you eliminate some of that routine and replace with intense experiences, you are going to be pleasantly surprised. That I can guarantee.
Door after door will open for you, some of which you knew were closed, others of which you didn’t even know were there.