Discipline is freedom

September 12, 2022

Routine is surprisingly helpful, yet awful

It pains me to say, but routine is king if you want a successful life. Whether artist or engineer, the daily, consistent grind for years at a time will produce a staggering reward.

I write this as someone who despises routine. I’m not good at it but where I have employed it, the results have been astonishing. It seems to be borne out of a natural law which demands ‘blood, sweat, toil and tears’. I really should apply it more liberally in other areas of my life.

What if you have no vision?

I think most of us fail at routine because we don’t have a clear vision for our lives and we get caught in an inertia during transitional moments. Too easily we become distracted and trapped in a relentless and un-constructive cycle.

Well, of course having a vision is a good thing - where there is no vision the people perish. Even as I write this, I’ll be honest, I only see dimly into the future with a vague sense of what that means for me. Much of my life is about keeping the show on the road. My routines and habits are largely formed by what I have been taught to do or what I have learned to do out of necessity.

Sometimes I take the foot off the pedal and think, What is the point? Am I just on a hamster wheel? I question if I even have the right routines? When things fall a part as they quickly do. I remember that the striving must continue and on I plough.

The painful death of aimless drift

One thing I know for certain is that drifting is a death sentence. Even if you think you are on the wrong path - it is better to nudge forward than to cut and run. Sticking at something means you must summon up great intestinal fortitude. Sacrifice and discomfort are endured. This adversarial resistance with its many misgivings strips you of entitlement and effects a great humility of spirit. It may feel as if you are walking through “the valley of the shadow of death” - No respite. No relief as you slog onward. but onward you must push. To quote Peterson “It is far better to become something, than remain anything but become nothing”

This means that every day - once you have committed to a path, you get up and take a series of repeated actions. If you need to change course don’t panic and jump overboard on a whim. Push the tiller left or right each day nudging the vessel in the new direction. When the direction is set for the day - then the boring but necessary routine of daily maintenance begins, working the checklists.

“It is far better to become something, than remain anything but become nothing”

Spot the incoming predators

For life this is looking at the days ahead, assessing the crunch points, checking that the tasks issued are getting done. All must pull in the same direction and you are to build capacity for the more challenging times that undoubtedly lie ahead. Especially as a husband and father, you have a moral God-given responsibility in this regard. You can’t do any of this without a notebook, calendar and to do list. Once in a while won’t cut it - you need to set up a daily routines focusing on the essential and supporting activities. “Don’t expect what you are not prepared to inspect.” Sometimes these checks and duties are hard, like making sales calls or making difficult family decisions but we must be about them every day until newer, different, better opportunities come along. Then the work starts again but this time with different routines and habits.

For some, what I am saying is common sense and easy but there will be other souls out there like myself who are on the creative and relational side. We don’t like to be tied down. We are not machines, we protest but we must work out how to maintain the structure and protect the foundations.

Everything is running down. When one area collapses it tends to take out the surrounding edifices also.

Don't squander the creative space that your routine buys you

Routine creates capacity which, in turn, allows you to explore further, for longer.. get the boring, necessary stuff out of the way early then with the margin you have created, invest it wisely in exploratory, life affirming adventures.