You Are What You Repeatedly Do

On the paradox of choice and why routines are important in preserving mental energy for the most important tasks:

Traveling to new places with different cultures is one of the most exciting things I've had the privilege to do. You know what else it is? Exhausting. The same qualities that make it so interesting and enjoyable also make it stressful and incredibly mentally taxing. Having to consciously evaluate and choose between seemingly infinite options on everything from where to eat and how to get there to which mountain or temple to visit next takes a lot of work and mental energy.

In this paradox is a truth which you can easily flip onto its head in order to improve your own day to day life. The reality is, no matter who you are, every waking second of your time can't be filled with brand-new, exciting activities (though most people's Instagram accounts - including my own - would lead you to believe otherwise). There are plenty of tasks that simply need to be completed again and again. They bring no glory, they receive no thanks, and most mentally stable people wouldn't classify them as fun, yet nevertheless they are essential.

Making breakfast
Brushing your teeth
Doing the dishes
Grocery shopping 
Washing clothes 

For the issue of the repetitive and the mundane, our brains have evolved a solution that we know of as routines.

I should preface by saying that I have no background in neuroscience, I'm simply commenting on the patterns I've noticed in the world. In other words, this is based on useless anecdotal evidence so don't ever try to cite it (or me in general for that matter) in something scienc-y. And yes, that's the technical term.

When you develop routines, which we all naturally do, you allow your brain to go into auto-pilot mode as you perform certain tasks. While this can be problematic for certain tasks which really should not be performed on auto-pilot, such as driving your car home from work, for the most part it's incredibly valuable as it helps us to conserve mental energy for the difficult problems we face. Whether you think of yourself as someone with strong routines or not (how Type A are you?) the likelihood is that even those whose daily lives seem the most disorganized are actually creatures of habit just as much as the rest of us.

This is why I think (along with a couple other people - I suspect there are some books...) it's really important to consciously design good routines, healthy habits, etc. Once you get into a particular pattern it can be very difficult to switch it. Most people will read that last sentence and think about all of the bad habits they have, but the beauty is, it's just as true for good habits. So basically that was just a really long-winded way of saying, build good habits. Do it on purpose. Do it now. Change a bunch of things at once and see what sticks! Why not?

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