September 3, 2012

The Fine Line Between Monotony and Routine

There is a fine line between monotony and routine, I believe.  On the one hand, to be successful at whatever it is you want to accomplish in life, some element of routine is necessary -- be it achieving success in your career, maintaining your physique, or being a good partner or parent.  But when routine starts to cross over into monotony, it's time to take reflect on whether the routine for this or that is still working. 

This happens to me every so often with my various routines, whether it be with my workout regimen, my post-work routine, or other rituals and habits.  Recently, I thought about whether I wanted to continue waking up at 5:30 a.m. to workout.  Getting up so early was beginning to feel restrictive, monotonous, and just plain annoying.  There were things I wanted to do, places I wanted to be, and having to be in bed by 9 p.m. so I could wake up so early to work out felt like it was getting in the way.  So I did what I do when things are dragging me down and took a couple days off so I could step back from my routine, something I've done pretty consistently since college.  When I thought about other alternatives, such as working out after work, when I generally have plans with friends, appointments, or just want to relax, I soon realized that trying to squeeze in an evening workout simply wouldn't happen because something would always be in the way, and then I'd be a miserable, out-of-shape little bitch.

My friend Carrie posted this on my Facebook wall a little while ago, knowing me all too well. 
But of course I had to give myself the chance to think about other possibilities, to have the freedom to choose (because I like my freedom!), at which point I realized that getting up early to workout -- something which provides me a lot of mental and physical satisfaction -- simply works for me.  The good of all this is that my pondering led me to make one little tweak: I reset my alarm clock from 5:30 to 5:45 a.m., a simple change in routine that added 15 minutes to my sleepy time.

I have said before that something I've been learning along the way is that my perspective is always evolving, resulting in sometimes changed opinions about things, which is why I think it's important to always be reflecting on what we want (and need) out of life at every given moment.  Is my routine actually leading me to a more rewarding, happy life, or has it become just an obligation that's leading me to no man's land? 

Sometimes our self-imposed schedules can get in the way of our goals, and ultimately our success in life.  For me, I believe the ultimate success is being in the present and living each day to the fullest.  Since the ultimate intent of a routine is to ideally help us attain our goals, they should not dictate the way we lead our lives, or more importantly, be the crux of a monotonous, boring life.  Instead, they should be the ingredient to a really great, full-bodied life.  Don't you agree?

In Sarah style, I'll end with a quote from Rilke which I read the other day in Letters on Life, a quote quite apropos for this subject: "You have to live life to the limit, not according to each day but according to its depth."  Perhaps easier said than done, but an enlightening perspective on achieving the good life.

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