Disrupt Your Routine

Written by Justin Wright

Routines, plans, and habits are crucial to long-term personal development and success. If you don’t have rituals, if you aren’t checking off your daily tasks, then it is almost impossible to make consistent progress. For those of you who may not have a routine currently, I suggest you start there and then continue reading.

The downside to habits is that they can lead to our subconscious mind taking over in negative ways. Habitual tasks become so routine that they ultimately require very little conscious thought. While this is positive with regard to good habits, it can also cause us to lose the additional drive to press forward towards our long-term goals. Today I want to discuss what can happen when routine becomes the enemy.

Adaptation & Lack of Change

If we are to take examples from the world of fitness and exercise, there is a reason that training programs must be altered over time to drive continued results. Our bodies respond to stress up to a certain point, but then we adapt to that stress. If our training stimulus is not varied over time, the stress will no longer be enough to drive progress. We become so acclimated to our training program, that we can no longer grow.

Our bodies are constantly seeking homeostasis, defined as, “the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes.” What this means, in short, is that we are constantly seeking a state of balance, a state where we are resistant to change.

Your Comfort Zone is a Prison

While developing certain habits can lead to daily wins and continued progress, our autopilot can equally cripple us. What happens when you wake up every day, going to a job you hate, coming home and wasting your evening, being stuck in a rut? How many people in life simply punch the clock and become cogs in the machine? This is a perfect example of what can happen when we become comfortable in our routine, particularly when that routine is not serving our best interests.

The comfort zone is a dangerous place: it is the place where many dreams die and where substantial progress is often halted. When we become comfortable in our daily life we stop seeking out opportunities for growth. Growth is almost always accompanied by struggle, pain, or hardship. Change cannot happen without challenges, and the more comfortable we become the more likely we are to avoid challenging situations.

Furthermore, by remaining comfortable we lose out on opportunities to alter our perspective. Routine can cause us to be blind to what is happening around us. We may miss out on a new personal or professional relationship because we are going through the motions of life with our head down. We may also miss out on a valuable lesson which will prove essential at a later date. How many times have you learned something useful from an unexpected source, at an unexpected time? Every person we encounter provides the chance to learn something new, and there are lessons to be learned from every individual regardless of their status. Some habits close us off to these opportunities.

The Benefits of Change

Change can be scary, but it is almost always beneficial. Think back to the major life changes you have made recently: most were probably scary at first, but chances are you grew exponentially as an individual because of them. While we tend to be resistant to change, the benefits of this disruption can typically be seen in the rearview.

Change brings with it new opportunities, and a chance to reinvent ourselves. It allows us the opportunity to align our actions with the type of person we wish to be in the future. If you are unhappy or dissatisfied with your life at this current juncture, you have infinite opportunities to make different choices in the days and weeks that follow. Small changes often act as the catalyst for bigger transformations; you must take that leap of faith in order for this growth to occur.

Think of every day as providing an infinite number of opportunities. You have the ability, literally at every second of the day, to choose a different path than the one you are currently on. If you dislike your job, you have hours in the day to build something different for yourself. If you are unhappy with your fitness level, you can start eating healthier food and incorporating exercise into your routine. You are in the driver’s seat, and overcoming the fear associated with change will allow you to steer your life in whatever direction you so choose.

How Can You Disrupt Your Routine?

So how exactly can you break up your routine and alter your habits? There are a number of strategies that will allow you to get uncomfortable on a regular basis, and this discomfort will prevent you from becoming complacent and entering a state of lifestyle homeostasis.

  1. Get up earlier, and wake up immediately: set your alarm for earlier in the morning and challenge yourself to get out of bed as soon as your alarm goes off. Instead of hitting snooze or lying in bed scrolling through social media, get up immediately and start your day. The time you save here may allow you opportunities to journal and implement a morning routine.
  2. Take a cold shower, or cold bath daily: part of the Wim Hof Method involves using a combination of breath techniques and the cold to bolster the immune system and create a positive physiological change in our mind and body. The cold is a highly effective way to drive positive change and improve your ability to handle discomfort. No one likes cold showers, at first, but the long-term mental benefits of overcoming this hurdle on a regular basis cannot be ignored. This is one very tangible way to get comfortable with the uncomfortable!
  3. Embrace hard physical efforts: physical exercise is an excellent catalyst for breaking out of your comfort zone. Start by signing up for something that scares you; it can be a road race, obstacle course race, CrossFit competition, triathlon, bodybuilding show, weightlifting meet, etc. The goal is to commit to something you don’t think you are ready for just yet, so that you are forced to figure out a way to get ready. Urgency is an incredible motivator, and committing to the event first will help you get your ducks in a row with the preparation.
  4. Take an acting or speaking class: many people are terrified of public speaking! Signing up for a local acting class, improv group, or speaking course is the perfect way to force yourself into an uncomfortable situation on a regular basis. Most major cities have Toastmaster groups, and major hubs will also often have acting classes or comedy troupes. Finding ways to regularly put yourself in front of other people can develop the confidence you need to step outside your comfort zone in other situations. Not to mention, public speaking is a valuable skill that will likely pay dividends at some point in your life or career.

Assess Your Current Routine & Make Positive Changes

Long story short, it is imperative that you spend some quality time assessing your current routine and finding areas where you have become complacent. It is perfectly okay, and often necessary, to “stop and smell the roses” and enjoy the life you are living in the here and now.

You can still do this with a critical eye on the ways in which you have become overly comfortable in your daily life. Finding ways to disrupt your normal processes will be uncomfortable at first but, as you have seen, will provide substantial benefits.

Routine is necessary for making forward progress towards our goals. If you don’t have positive habits in place then it will be nearly impossible for you to make measurable progress on a regular basis. That said, routine can also act as an excuse for not taking action. It is very easy to become comfortable, complacent, and lazy. Taking responsibility for the future we want is difficult, uncomfortable, and challenging. What I can promise you, however, is that the short-term discomfort is a small price to pay for long-term success and satisfaction!