Life at Reed: The Routine

“routine - a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program”

We all follow a routine, whether we realize it or not. Perhaps your daily routine arose from the environment you were immersed in. Maybe you get up at 9 a.m. because that allows you just enough time to prepare for class. Maybe you do homework at night because you put it off and class is fast approaching. Maybe you hang with friends when you run into them, and you eat sporadically, because you remember to eat when you are hungry. A routine of “no routine” is itself a routine. Perhaps you’ve noticed that we (humans) seem to run in loops; we do the same things, we think about the same things, we make the same mistakes, over and over. Who we are is made up of what we do consistently; we are created by routines.

Humans have a tendency to focus on events that are non-representative of the norm. We generally enjoy reading the news. The news, by definition, is made up of things that do not happen everyday—yet, from the news, we form generalizations about the world around us. Are a few jihadist attacks representative of an entire religion? Are the actions of a few idiots representative of entire groups of people? This kind of thinking creates division within communities. The same kind of thinking leads us to believe that certain, specific events were the most transformative in our lives. We like to imagine that doing something once, and very intensely, will have a big effect. So, right after New Year’s Day, thousands of Americans enter the gym and begin what they believe will be a life-changing action by working out, as hard as they can, for an hour (maybe half). Within three weeks, the overwhelming majority of them cease training, and end up right back where they were before. How do people become experts at something? By doing it every day. Over time, hours of cumulative actions add up to expertise. True masters even continue to practice the fundamentals. Basketball stars in the NBA don’t spend most of their time working on new dunks; they shoot thousands of lay-ups, jump shots, and free throws. If you want to master something, you must do it every day.

What can be mastered? You may be thinking that I am simply addressing things like study or exercise. No—more importantly, I am addressing you, as a person. Do you want to be happy? How about focused? Do you want to be kind? Maybe calm? Maybe you want to quit procrastinating? If you want these things, then you need to practice these things, daily. You already have a routine, but if it is not the one you have decided on, then you will not become the person you want to be. Create a plan for yourself that includes clear goals. Write it down and post it where you will see it every day—maybe right on your door, where you will pass it on your way out in the morning. If you do not plan, you plan to fail. That being said, do not be dismayed by failure—expect it, embrace it, it is part of the process. No one sees results in a few days. Results come from the summation of daily actions over long periods of time. Continue taking action, follow your routine, and you will become who you want to be.