Effective habits, or stale routines?

‘Personal development’ authors often recommend us to “un-learn” old routines, and make space for the effective habits they are about to teach us. These books then spend hundreds of pages to describe habits that promise to turn your life around. Having tried many of these habits myself over the years, I started asking some questions this morning as I was showering. Have I learned effective habits? Are they still effective, or have they become stale routines?

Forgetting about my commitment to water conservation, my mind drifted. I started reflecting. I looked back to the last 5 years or so, and started analysing the little routines and habits I have developed. I scrutinised those I abandoned, like a wrecked ship at the Bermuda triangle. I tried to answer the question: Where they effective? Would they still be effective? Should I bring them back to life, or change current ones for new ones?

Over time, many of the habits, routines and techniques have become ‘guiding principles’ rather than habits. I adapt them and use them as required, depending on the situation. There are, however, some habits that have stuck as habits. For example, I have developed the habit to wake up at 5 AM, before the rest of my family. This is a habit that allows me to have some ‘me’ time. I manage to fit in my meditation, exercise, and writing routines into my day. They are, at this point in time, very effective habits I developed and maintain. That was also the case just before the birth of my youngest boy. But these same habits were woefully ineffective during the last 8 months. My smallest decided not to sleep through the night until he became 9 months old. During that time, getting enough rest became a much higher priority than meditation; and my early-rising habit just dropped off.

What are your habits? Why do they work for you? How do you develop them? Do they still work for you, or is it time to ‘spring clean’ the attic of your mind and start collecting new routines?

As you reflect on these, remember that the only constant in life is change. No matter how much we try to model our world on industrialism and machination, we just can not make anything predictable. Especially our lives, our behaviours, or ourselves. Our environment changes every day. Do do our job, our friends, coworkers, enemies, and even our passions. Within this environment, a habit that could work for you extremely well today is destined to become dead-weight on your shoulders tomorrow.


I encourage you to reflect on those habits, and then make some decisions. Good luck in your journey. Even better, make your own luck by developing the habit of regularly increasing your self-awareness.


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