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“Sometimes I also feel lazy,” I said calmly to Mike. I noticed him smile with a sigh of relief.
My self-disclosure came after several hearings of Mike berating himself, thinking he wasn’t “motivated” or “done anything with my life”. According to Mike, he should earn more money and actively compose music. He seemed to selectively ignore the successes of his life. It is common for us to belittle ourselves despite our productivity levels.
I remembered how Mike had apparently idolized me in the past, despite my efforts to be real. He sometimes commented on how “you own your own business” and “you wrote books”. I felt an urge to debate with Mike and make him aware of his many accomplishments. However, I decided to be more relatable. I explained that I am always able to get things done even though I don’t always feel motivated. I continued to share that motivation is fleeting and unreliable. What happens when we have bad news or have a tough day?
The concept of motivation has evolved throughout history (Berridge, 2018). However, I use the term to refer to a drive that drives us towards a desire or a goal. Consider the last time you felt motivated and how long it lasted. It is more helpful to have daily routines in place that help us achieve our goals. Routines are a set of actions that we perform consistently over time, whether or not we want to do them. It’s easier to rely on small, consistent actions as opposed to sudden bursts of inspiration.
I don’t always feel motivated to do things but I do them because they are necessary for me to move forward. Imagine seeing a heart surgeon who told you, “I can do successful surgeries when I feel motivated.” You wouldn’t put your health at risk in the hope that your healthcare professional would feel motivated on the day of your procedure. Instead, it would be best if the procedure was performed by someone who has routines in place that allow them to be successful no matter what they are feeling.
Here are other reasons why routines are important:
Routines improve mental health
Murray, Gottlieb, and Swartz (2021) claim that daily routines help stabilize mood. Hou, Lai, Ben-Ezra, and Goodwin (2020) also note the importance of having regular routines for improving mental health. The article deals with both primary routines that involve daily life (hygiene, sleep, diet, etc.) and secondary routines that involve leisure goals and activities (social activities, preferences, work, etc.).
Routines help reduce excessive thinking
McCann (2008) mentions that having routines can decrease excessive thinking for athletes and lead to better results. Over-thinking can often lead to negative emotions, such as worry, and behavior that impairs performance. This is also true for non-athletes. For example, one article suggests that performance improvement routines can improve the clinical effectiveness of young physicians (Church, Murdoch-Eaton & Sandars, 2020).
Routines provide a sense of control
Eilam, Izhar and Mort (2011) suggest that rituals help alleviate stress and anxiety by promoting a sense of control. Rituals and routines are slightly different in that rituals are sometimes considered more meaningful. However, the principle is the same. Having a steady set of actions that we constantly do makes us feel like we are in control rather than living life in a reactionary way.
Part of my daily routine involves writing 300 words, meditating for ten minutes (this could also be supplemented with a quiet sitting position), doing simple exercises, creating a to-do list, and jotting down a new thing I learned for the day.
Observe some of the most “successful” people and you’ll notice solid daily routines that translate into positive results over time. Waiting for motivation means that sometimes you will be effective and other times not. Routines aren’t just about helping us succeed; they also help improve our mental health.
What is your daily routine?
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