Power of routine

A routine is a powerful thing.

For example, a morning run each day. If you really ponder and decide every day separately whether you feel like going, is it too hot, too cold, or is it raining too much,  you put a lot of your effort in deciding. Many times, you might end up not going. At least it would create unnecessary inner debate. But if it were a routine, you wouldn’t even pay attention to the weather, as you’ll put your running shoes on automatically. Why?

A good routine leaves more mental capacity to other things, as people don’t need to think about the routine itself. A good routines gives you freedom. It’s an autopilot. As your unconscious mind takes more control in that activity (or in the decision making process to start doing it), you can put your conscious efforts in something else and therefore be more effective. That’s the case if the routine is a good one.

A bad routine can just suck the life out of you. Sometimes people don’t even notice it first. It might just feel..boring. But the reason why people keep on doing “it” is not questioned, as it’s a routine. A habit or, even worse, a fact of life. Perhaps the whole life becomes a routine. Within their inner distorted reality things cannot be changed. “I’m doing this because I have to.” It can’t be changed…because. And there’s always the list of excuses external factors like mortgage, kids, work, spouse. Injury. A long list of them that rationalize the behavior. As its worst, it’s the antithesis of personal freedom. Such people don’t even think that something should be changed, because it feels impossible. In the end, people end up living a life that is not their own, that’s suffocating and painful. “This is just how life is.

Well, fortunately it really doesn’t need to be as bad as that.

Recognizing bad routines

If  a bad routine has taken you over without your consent, there’s a danger that it may had blinded you. As you were on autopilot you were somewhat ignoring it. I’m wondering if some athletes are doing it too. Basically, athletes may end up in a situation where everything is done the same way as before. No thoughts about changing something, not even if the results aren’t so good.  This can be warning sign. Obviously, these things can happen in multiple different levels; daily things, bad habits like watching TV, what do you eat, the way you put the fork into your mouth, how you lift a barbell, how you take a step, how do you hit the ball, what are the exercises that you always do. So it can be linked to what do you do and how you do it.

Luckily, people can choose another kind of approach. Especially people like yourself, who are already aware of potential side effects of a bad routine. You can elaborate on them and decide. Consciously. The first step is to question your activities. Fill-in the blanks:

“What would happen if…”

“Is it really necessary to…”

“How could I do [it] in a more effective and enjoyable way?”

What is the positive intent of this activity and how can I achieve it in some another way?

“What would it take me to…”


So just start asking questions. It’s easy. And the more you ask the better it works, as it breaks the autopilot. Who’s in charge anyways?

Designing new routines
As routines are powerful, it’s a good idea to design good routines deliberately. As all the athletes know, repetition is a very important factor in learning new things, for example, so routine can definitely be a good thing. Many times athletes explicitly want to put some moves directly into their unconscious mind. This is an interesting subject also from mental coaching point of view and will be further evaluated in a later post.
If we look at routines which are like habits rather than exact movements (like a golf swing), here’s an idea that you test to create a new good routine for yourself. The idea is to link your new routine with something that you do routinely already.
If you want to run each morning, one idea would be to put on your running gear as soon as you have finished brushing your teeth. After a while your old routine (brushing teeth) will be linked to your new routine (seek for your running gear), and becomes an indicator to start looking for your running shirt. The start of the old routine triggers a new habit. Brushing your teeth leads to running.

In short, the equation looks like this:

Trigger (go to bathroom in the morning) -> existing routine (brushing teeth)
Trigger -> existing routine -> new routine (seek out your gear)
Trigger -> new routine

If it’s more likely that you brush your teeth than go for a run, this might help you.

The fact that you have reached the end of this post means that your mind has started to find similar new and better ways to create good routines and, perhaps even more importantly, get rid of bad routines. That’s personal freedom.

Kirjoittajasta Panu Kuhlberg

Panu on urheilijoiden mentaalivalmentaja, sekä Light On Gravityn ja Huippusuoritus.fi:n perustaja. Panu valmentaa urheilijoita ja yrityksiä ajattelemaan entistä paremmalla tavalla. Panulla on kilpaurheilutausta ja muun muassa Euroopan mestaruus amerikkalaisessa jalkapallossa. Panu on myös pelannut Italian Golden Leaguessa.

Yritykset arvostavat myös Panun kansainvälistä johtamiskokemusta työelämässä. Panu kouluttaa ja luennoi yrityksissä ja muissa organisaatioissa, kuten yliopistoissa.

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