We love a routine. Don’t we?
I started a new interim role two weeks ago. For the first time in my working life I have become a daily train commuter. I have a new, but defined, morning routine in place:
- 6.30am alarm
- Make coffee
- Drink coffee
- Put lunch and snacks in my handbag
- Grab a banana to eat on my way to the station
- Walk to the station, stroking the small tortoiseshell cat in the next street on the way (this interaction forms part of her daily routine)
- Give a cereal bar to the homeless man outside the train station (he pretends to be asleep but as soon as I’ve walked past a hand appears out of his sleeping bag and squirrels away my offering – that’s his routine)
- Get to station 8-10 minutes ahead of the train so I have time to buy my second coffee of the day (medium caramel latte)
- Fight my way onto the train, accepting the inevitable lack of available seat, and settle in by the door for 25 minutes with either my kindle or my knitting
- Get off the train, put my empty coffee cup in the recycling bin and walk down the road to the office
- Arrive at my desk at 8.15am
Within two weeks this has become what I do, almost unconsciously. I see others playing out their own routines in the same way. I’m starting to recognise the same people at the station each morning, and being impressed with the ones who play it right down to the wire, arriving on the platform at exactly the same time as the train – an edge of the seat approach which I think would cause me to have palpitations, but it is an intrinsic part of their individual routine.
So yes, we love a routine. And yet life is lived in a state of ongoing change. No two days are exactly the same – the people we see and speak to, the work we complete, the weather, our emotional state all lead to a unique daily experience. These changing experiences do not in fact cause most people to implode.
Buddhism holds that everything is in a constant state of flux and we choose whether we accept change passively and are swept away by it, or whether we take the lead and create positive changes on our own initiative. Human nature leads us to consciously believe that we are uncomfortable with change but, when you break it down, we are accepting and adapting to change on a continual basis, in something of an unconsciously fluid zen state. My own new routine has become established, without any real thought, and within a very short period of time.
If we can recognise and accept this then we can leverage our natural ability to work within change in our personal and our working lives. After all change is change, it is just the quantum and impact that varies. If we can view our routines as a tool for efficiently managing natural change, rather than as a coping mechanism to enable us to deny it is happening, then we can approach it in a more positive frame of mind, and on our own initiative. Surely that leads to a winning situation for everyone.