Routines, Habits, and Ritual Series

Habits: Back to the Basics

At first, I had the Trinity: three habits I treated with a sanctity warranted by the level of importance to my life.

  1. Write
  2. Read
  3. Spend time in nature

Then I had the Core Four:

  1. Connect with others

The list grew from the Sacred Seven to 11 to 12 to 15. I relied heavily on routines to accommodate the increasing behaviors I wanted to integrate into each day. My mornings were synchronized to an app designed for routines. Each action was set to the ideal amount of time, a chime marking the moment to move from yoga to meditation to writing to making breakfast. When it worked, it was a beautiful thing. When it didn’t… well, let’s just say it was counterproductive to creating a life of harmony balanced with my core values. 

Disclaimer: I have fur babies but do not have children. My morning commute is 10 minutes away during rush hour. I have short hair and wear the same clothes I’ve worn for decades. I shower three or four times a week. Which is all to say, I understand that other folks have far, far, far more complicated mornings than I do.

I felt pretty good about my routine and even turned most of it into ritual (intention, awareness, dedication). And then almost everyone’s world was turned upside down. As I’ve said many times over the past few years, fucking pandemic

It wasn’t until I was back in the office a year later that I could get into a routine again. Jumping right into 15 habits wasn’t a good recipe for success. 

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In ways reminiscent of the “Look Here: Non-Negotiables,” the number of habits on my list expands with my perceived ability to go further than the Trinity. But sometimes, I overreach. Having 15 items on my habit tracker has become overwhelming rather than grounding. Seeing so many empty squares week after week makes me doubt my commitment to living my life according to my values,

However, rather than seeing it as a failure, I’m learning to see those empty squares as a story unfolding. In the business world, I would say that my habit chart provides data on what is really happening. Insights rather than judgments. 

And what my habit tracker is telling me is that I need to go back to the basics. 

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We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Aristotle

Excellence isn’t a core value for me, but this quote’s general idea still serves: It is our actions over time that define who we are.   

So who is it that I am? What do I need in my life to feel fulfilled, connected, alive? If not Excellence, then what is it that drives me?

Many folks focus on practical habits: brushing your teeth, making your bed, doing the dishes each day.

These habits start to expand my list from the Trilogy up to 15 items. They ARE important. My cats will tell you that they really do want their litterboxes cleaned every day and that they love fresh, clean water bowls each morning. And my spouse will agree that my cooking dinner on the regular is essential. 

But when I get overwhelmed by the tracker itself, I ask myself these questions:

1. Will this action happen regardless of whether I track it or not?

2. If it won’t happen every day, is that okay? Can the cats go two days without the litterbox being cleaned?

That’s a great place to start getting back to the core reason for the tracker. Are my daily actions honoring my core values and my essential needs?

Of course, we need to back up a step to answer that. What are my core values? What are my essential needs?

If you don’t know the answer to those questions or haven’t revisited them in some time, doing a value card sort is a great place to start. You can print your own set of cards, purchase them, or do the exercise online. Once you have your values firmly in mind, defining what repeated actions support those values can inform the core habits that would add value to your life.

I’m not quite back to the Trinity, but I have limited my habit tracker to 5 actions that support the 5 core values gathered from my own value card sort (values and descriptions copied from my results on Think2Perform; questions and habits are mine).

Creativity

Placing importance on imagination, inspiration and inventiveness.  

Question: Where can I nourish this value daily?

Habit: For me, this is writing.   

Integrity

Firm adherence to a moral code and/or set of values, walking the talk.

Question: Where am I out of integrity? What can I do to remedy that?    

Habit: Practice the Rs by taking the time to run purchases through that paradigm before buying something new.

Relationships

Connections between and among people.

Question: What relationships are important to me? Do they know it? Do I show it?

Habit: Connect with someone I care about daily.

Security

The feeling of being protected or safeguarded from danger, a sense of comfort.

Question: What is my most significant sense of insecurity right now? How do I change that?  

Habit: Show up to work consistently to maintain or improve our financial security.

Spirituality

Appreciating the need to understand one’s inner self and its relationship with the world.

Question: Where do I tap into my sense of spirituality? 

Habit: Spend time in nature each day. 

Now I have my Focused Five, in order of importance to me right at this moment:

  1. Write
  2. Connect with someone I care about  
  3. Spend time in nature  
  4. Rethink purchases/consumption
  5. Show up at work

A person’s values will show up in their actions. In their habits. What do your habits say about who you are in the world? 

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