My mornings are pretty predictable. I’ll spare you the details but it involves going to the gym at 4:30 a.m. and coming home to have morning coffee with Pamela before launching each day. I’ve always prided myself as a person who thinks outside of the box, and eschews mindless, repetitive activity. But then I evaluated my morning routines…
… and I find that every single morning I follow the same behaviors from the moment I arise until I engage in my workout (I try to keep the variety going here) and return home. I even put the stool that I sit on to put on my shoes in exactly the same place! I often think about changing up my routines but then slip right into the predictable behaviors.
Predictable behaviors in the daily routines of life help me avoid some things.
For one, I don’t forget stuff. There are reasons I so things in a certain way because they help me build in behaviors that assure me that I have not forgotten something. Now I can mindlessly go through my morning routines without having to double-check myself. Change the routine and I’m likely to start forgetting stuff like, for example, my towel.
Another thing I avoid is wasting time. By not allowing myself to get side-tracked on tangential activities that distract me from my main objective I stay on-task and get the job done. When I get side-tracked I have to double-check myself because one change in routine may mean I forget to execute another important routine.
On the other hand, predictable behaviors in my daily routines help me make sure some things get done.
Many of those behaviors are the culmination of looking for the most efficient way to do these repetitive behaviors because I want to move through them quickly without having to think about them. I chose those ways of doing things in order to be efficient in the use of my time. If I change the routine it is because I have found a more efficient way to do the same task with less time or effort.
Another benefit is for those around me. When I am predictable in my routines, others with whom I interact in the day can plan their time accordingly. If Pam wakes up at 5:30 a.m. she doesn’t have to wonder where I might be found if she needs me for an emergency. When she puts on the coffee at 6:30 in the morning she knows that I will be pulling up within 5 to 10 minutes to unload my bag, pour a cup of coffee and sit with her on the couch to plan out our day.
Predictable routines make us predictable. Being predictable makes us dependable. Being dependable breeds trust. Trust is a good thing.
Conversely, unpredictable routines make us unpredictable. Being unpredictable makes undependable. Being undependable breeds distrust. Distrust is a bad thing.
There are times when we need to build trust for the first time. The way we do that is by behaving in predictable, dependable, trustworthy ways. These qualities have serendipitous spin-offs that go right to the core values of who we are. They are among the building blocks for things like integrity, honesty and personal responsibility.
There are times when trust is destroyed and has to be rebuilt. This is true when a marriage has been threatened by an extra-marital affair, a hidden vice or secret past. When these are exposed the building blocks for trust are blown apart and require reconstruction. Many elements may go into the rebuilding of trust; but, among them will be regular, predictable behaviors practiced over a long period of time.
One of the most challenging environments in which children are often raised is the unpredictable environments where parents are unreliable, random and illogical. Trust never has an object or person by which to stabilize and take root. Daily life is in constant flux with fluid rules, permeable boundaries, and irregular behavior and schedules.
Regular, predictable routines in a home, on the other hand, breed stability, confidence and a sense of assurance and safety in children. When life throws its challenges in the child’s pathway they know that there is one place where they will find rules, boundaries and regular, predictable behaviors that contribute to a sense of acceptance, love and appreciation.
The fruit often found in such stable families is helpful for inculcating a sense of adventure, openness to new ideas and a willingness to be challenged. Arising from the security of knowing that you can always go home children learn that failure does not have to be fatal and that, no matter what, love and acceptance will rule the day.
Unfortunately, these values do not cure everything. In the last month I have lost two very nice pairs of gloves because I have yet to establish a routine for keeping them on my person when I don’t need them. I’m experimenting with several alternatives like tucking them inside of my coat instead of in my pockets. I’ve also researched these little clips like I used to have as a kid that you attached to the sleeves of your coat…Naw, not really. I’ll figure it out eventually and then establish a routine so that I don’t have to think about losing them any more. The reason will be that I will have established a regular, predictable behavior that I can mindlessly execute so that I don’t have to retrace my steps looking for the gloves that I set down…somewhere…like I have been doing for the last few weeks.