Finding Rhythm in Your Daily Routine
Maybe it’s the time of year, or maybe there’s just something in the air – but I’ve been thinking (and hearing!) a lot about routines and habits lately.
More specifically, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to go from the grind of trying to adopt a new habit or get back into the rhythm of a daily routine, to feeling like it’s easy and just working.
Summer in particular is a tough season for routines and consistency – at least for me.
On the one hand, it’s so nice to mix things up every once in a while with a vacation, an extra social outing or two during the week, or an excuse to enjoy those extended daylight hours and warm summer nights.
But the flip side is, the daily routines that support me during the rest of the year start to slide.
That daily writing practice starts slipping through the cracks.
My feel-good eating and exercise habits start to slide.
Those morning and evening routines slowly start falling apart.
As these foundations of my daily routine start to crack, I start feeling out-of-rhythm with myself. Almost like a car spinning its wheels in the mud, with no traction. And it starts feeling more and more impossible to get back on track.
But my question is: why is that?
FEEL THE BEAT OF THE RHYTHM
For years and years growing up, I was a dancer. Most of my training was in ballet, but as I got older I branched out into more contemporary styles. And no matter the technique or the style of movement, there was always something about dancing that reminded me how to get back into my body and come home to myself.
In dance there was constantly something new to learn – a new step, a new combination, or a new piece of choreography. And ‘new’ always meant clunky, at least at first. But with focus and repetition, it would start to feel more and more natural. And what started as a brain exercise (what comes next again? what are my feet supposed to be doing?) eventually moved into my body, and became muscle memory.
There’s nothing like that moment when you’re trying and trying to master something new, and then something just clicks.
As a dancer, it’s that split second when you finally find the rhythm; when you can stop searching for it, because the movement itself is just carrying you. It’s in your body, and your brain can take a breather.
That’s the feeling I want so badly with my daily routines. Just that feeling of natural rhythm and ease, when I no longer have to be in my head trying to force it, because it’s in my body. Like muscle memory.
Why is it so hard to find that sense of flow and ease when our daily routine has been knocked off the rails, or even when we're starting from scratch? What does it take to find that sense of rhythm and ease?
RHYTHM IS A MYSTERY
The truth is, I’ve been struggling in this area lately.
I’ve always been the kind of person who desperately wants a morning routine to set me in motion for the day, but can’t quite figure out what the ‘right’ one looks like. Same with a before-bed routine. I crave something consistent to begin and end my days with a sense of ease and rhythm, but ‘success’ seems to ebb and flow for me.
I’ll find something that sort of works for a week or two… until it doesn’t. And even during that window of success, that ‘clicking’ feeling is missing. It’s not in my body yet.
There’s a lot I haven’t figured out yet about the rhythm of a daily routine that truly sticks, and creates that feeling of flow. But I’m starting to wonder if being in the messiness of these unanswered questions means I’m close to finding my way through it.
For right now, I’m both enchanted and totally exasperated by questions like:
What makes the difference between a new habit or routine that feels clunky and unnatural, and one that’s sticky and easy?
Can there be a sense of rhythm without total day-to-day consistency?
How can we tell when a new routine just needs more time before it can stick, vs. when it’s time to throw in the towel and try something completely different?
Is there danger in relying too heavily on the consistency of our daily routines? Does that just mean our rhythms are doomed to fall apart if/when circumstances change beyond our control?
Is routine boring, or comforting? And what makes the difference?
But even with all that uncertainty and all those contradictions throwing me for a loop when it comes to my own rhythms and routines… there’s one thing I know for sure, that I keep coming back to.
To make a change, we have to be willing to make a change. And that means getting in motion.
Some days, all I know is that what I’m doing (or not doing) now isn’t working. The rhythm isn’t clicking. But without that willingness to gently experiment and commit to trying something different in earnest, those wheels will just keep spinning.
Sitting still and dreaming about a workout routine that sticks is different than putting on the yoga pants and going for a walk.
Talking about the morning writing ritual you wish you had won’t get you nearly as far as setting the alarm, getting out of bed, and opening the notebook or the Google Doc.
Lamenting how bad you are at going to bed at a reasonable hour night after night (just me?) doesn’t have the same impact as actually getting into bed earlier tonight.
In dance, we find rhythm and muscle memory through motion and repetition; and in the same way, progress and self-understanding come from actual doing.
And so, my challenge to you this week is to find an area where you’re feeling stuck, or out of rhythm, or where you wish you had more of a sense of flow and ease – and then, decide on one small action to take today to set change in motion.
Your form of doing can be small and imperfect. It can be unglamorous and gradual. Clunky and awkward. But at the end of the day, it’s motion that moves the needle – and we don’t have to wait until we have all the answers before we start moving.
In fact, if that’s what we think we’re waiting for, we’ll end up sitting still forever.
Now, I'd love to hear from you!
Do you crave that feeling of rhythm and ease in your daily routine?
What's one thing you can do today to create more of that feeling in an area where you need it, even if it's an imperfect or incomplete first step?