Every day, the alarm clock goes off earlier than we want it to. We groggily go about some mindless morning ritual that involves some degree of packing, cleaning, eating, caffeinnating, reading, watching, or listening to news, music, or some funny video on youtube that your odd uncle, aunt, cousin, or buddy from college sent you. We go about this routine in no particular order, or for some there is a very regimented protocol, but inevitably we leave for work, the grocery store, the airport or wherever, surely a little later than we should have, or wanted to. Inevitably we find ourselves stuck between two other vehicles in a long line of others who are going nowhere in a hurry. While we glare at each other, and critique everyone else’s poor driving skills, we rotate through morning show after morning show where hosts loudly discuss the headlines of the day ranging from celebrity breakups, NFL free agency (you can be sure this topic will revolve around Tim Tebow), and of course the traffic report which you can quickly confirm by looking at the gridlock in front of you.
Eventually we make it to wherever we’re headed, and we are forced to stifle our frustrations and greet our co-workers, the grocery clerk, or the ticket agent who gladly accepts payment for the bag you were going to carry-on, but it’s a full flight, and you weren’t able to board on time.
The day drags on, and no matter how many times we check the time, it doesn’t seem to move fast enough. That is, until 3:30, where we’re of course roped into four or five conversations we don’t want to have, with people we don’t want to talk to. These conversations of course last right until 5:15, ensuring you are the last to leave the office, landing you smack dab in the middle of rush hour, again. We struggle home, only to be greeted by dishes in the sink, a mounting pile of laundry, and oh by the way, you forgot to take out the trash, again…
We all fall into this sort of routine, often living day to day, just looking forward to each weekend, aspiring to catch up on sleep and baseball, but instead getting wrapped up into household chores, fixing that thing that broke, and going to that event you can’t miss.
Every once and a while, we have an experience that awakens us from this sleepy routine. We have an experience that dramatically alters our perspective, causing us to ask questions about who we are, what’s really important, or why do we subject ourselves to the aforementioned rat race? What is it all about? This experience takes many forms. It could be something as simple as eating a bowl of cereal that brings us back to a long forgotten moment with a loved one we have lost. It could be a vacation, a movie, a book, or a thought provoking conversation brought about after a few drinks. In any case, these rare epiphanies are golden! We often resolve to call our mothers more frequently, say I love you more often, or to get in shape, or to change something about ourselves that has manifested unconsciously.
As earth shattering as these moments can be, unfortunately, we often forget our incredible lessons learned. We go back to our routines, and slowly but surely, we forget to say thank you as much, we find excuses to avoid the stair master, and our selfishness causes us to loathe all the other people stuck in gridlock for impeding our transit. How dare they go to work at the same time as me! How dare they take to the road without knowing exactly where they are going, and how dare they do such an awful job parallel parking in front of me, surely delaying me by at least 3 minutes, that I will never get back!
Each day we face challenges and circumstances that we cannot control, and often we allow these challenges and circumstances to dictate who we are and what we choose to do. It is admittedly difficult to maintain optimism and virtue during our daily routine. It is hard to take what we learned from that great book, from that heart warming movie, or that great conversation we had with mom, our buddy from college, or that chance encounter we had on the red eye back from San Francisco.
It is essential then, to establish habits that force us to continually re-evaluate our daily practices, and bring us back to our virtue. We have to find ways to breakup the daily routine into manageable bites, to find stress management techniques to keep our minds clear, and our perspectives rosy. We have to seek out ways to mitigate the mind-numbing routine, and in doing so, allow us to embrace our daily challenges and thus embrace the people and relationships we encounter and maintain each day. Life is too short to allow ourselves to fall into a routine where today is just a gateway into tomorrow.
Each time we find ourselves glancing at the clock, just waiting for five, we need to recognize that as an opportunity to flip our perspective and embrace the next hour! Budget review is never fun, and no one enjoys it, so why can’t you be the one who carries the meeting with unmatched enthusiasm? make it fun! Crack a joke or two, and embrace that as an opportunity to make the company better!
Enough syrupy optimism. The point of this blog was to talk about habits. habits are hard to make, and even harder to break, but it is our choice which ones to make or break. We can choose to start the day with a pack of cigarettes, and a greasy grand slam, or we can start each day with a 4 mile jog and a glass of orange juice. That is our choice. We all will fall into some sort of routine, and we can choose to make that routine a positive one. We can choose to incorporate a workout into our morning ritual, we can choose to leave 15 minutes early to beat the rush, we can choose to be friendly to the barista or grocer, we can choose to say I love you to our family on a daily basis… you get the point. We can dictate our routine for the better, or we can allow external circumstances to drive us. It is a challenge for sure, but I know that you are up to it!
Back to the epiphanies… Each time we have an impactful experience, if you’re like me, there is a resolution. From here on out I will always… fill in the blank. Always is tough though. Always almost always turns into the next few weeks, becoming less and less day to day until I completely forgotten what I had set out to do in the first place. That is, unless I establish a habit out of my resolution. For me, it has been helpful to keep a journal, or this blog. The desire to chronicle my life experiences in a positive manner keeps me looking at life the way I wish to write about it. I seek the virtue in the lamest of things, and I am better for it! I still fall into crappy routines, I hate traffic just like you, but daily, monthly or whenever I can, I come back to musing into my computer, and it keeps my perspective fresh.
Am I saying that you should start a blog? Well of course I think that would be wonderful, but the blog works for me. I am not you. Only you know how to make and break your own habits. Starting a blog is a terrible idea if you hate writing… Perhaps yoga is a way for you to come back to center, and introspect on who you are and what is really important. Perhaps ceramics are a way you can explore virtue on a regular basis. Whatever it is, it’s important to make a habit of it, keeping us from being swept away from our true selves, by external circumstances.
Today is not merely a pathway to tomorrow. Today is a rare and wonderful opportunity to face challenge with courage, to embrace our community with love, and to truly enjoy each moment to it’s fullest!