Don’t be a hamster: Own your routines

The best thing in the world to break your routine is a vacation (preferably to someplace new and exotic). From when you wake to the moment your head hits the pillow, everything is outside your daily routine: where you sleep, what you eat, the places you go, the people with whom you interact. The comfortable slippers of your daily life are gone. It’s a fantastic way to inspire creativity, stimulate your mind and re-energize your spirit.

And then the vacation ends. You come home. What happens when you get back?

If you’re like me, you quickly slip back into your daily routine like you never left. Once the jet lag is gone, you get up at the same time, walk the dog, go to work, do the things that you do. Back on the hamster wheel. You’re usually playing catch up with things that happened while you were away (unread emails, missed meetings, projects gone awry), which means you’re probably even busier than before you left. And life continues as usual.

But it doesn’t have to. We can use these moments of transition, when we’re adjusting to being back home and at work, to reflect on the nature of our routines. In our post-vacation state of mind, filled with new experiences from our travels, we can be a little more mindful and see our lives more clearly. We can step outside of those routines for just a moment and ask: Are my routines helping me achieve my goals, or are they just the things I do every day? Do I own my routines, or do they own (and define) me?

Don’t get me wrong. Not all routines are bad. Sleeping at regular times, exercising, and spending quality time with loved ones are all important to our well being. But some routines are just well-worn patterns in the landscape of our lives, and they aren’t always leading us in the right direction.

So the next time you take a trip, step back when you get home, and think about the routines that serve a purpose, and those that are just your personal hamster wheel. Each of us has the power to step off that wheel once we notice it’s there.

  • elaine

    Well said. Routines grow stale when we lose sight of the greater context of what makes our lives fulfilling. When we’re on vacation, most of us like to ‘take it all in’ because we’re doing something outside of our normal routine – Being present makes our experiences so memorable. But if you live every day with purpose, you don’t need vacations to realize a life of fulfilling experiences.