Jordan Peterson On The Importance Of Routine

The body, with it’s various parts, needs to function like a well-rehearsed orchestra. Every system must play its role properly, and at exactly the right time, or noise and chaos ensue. It is for this reason that routine is so necessary. The acts of life we repeat every day need to be automatized. They must be turned into stable and reliable habits, so they lose their complexity and gain predictability and simplicity. This can be perceived most clearly in the case of small children, who are delightful and comical and playful when their sleeping and eating schedules are stable, and horrible and whin and nasty when they are not.

Most people are disconnected from their bodies. We disrespect ourselves far too much by eating horrible food, sitting too much, not stretching enough, drinking sugar and alcohol instead of water, sleeping too little and exercising minimally and then we wonder why we don’t feel good.

Why we feel depressed.

Why we feel so stressed out or anxious.

Of course, the cure isn’t always as simple as fixing your bad habits but sometimes it is and at the very least, it’s a good place to start. To get out of your head and get into your body.

It is for such reasons that I always ask my clinical clients first about sleep. Do they wake up in the morning at approximately the time the typical person wakes up, and at the same time every day? If the answer is no, fixing that is the first thing I recommend. It doesn’t matter so much if they got to bed at the same time each evening, but waking up at a consistent hour is a necessity. Anxiety and depression cannot be easily treated if the sufferer has unpredictable daily routines.

Don’t make life more complicated than it has to be.

Don’t make it more stressful than it has to be.

You can look at a routine like your foundation. With everything, if the foundation is faulty, weak, full of cracks, whatever you build upon it won’t last.

There aren’t many things in life we can control. Sometimes you are just given a bad hand and you just have to deal with it. One of the few things we do have control over is our actions and our attitudes. We can act in a manner that is beneficial for us, such as: eating healthy food (most of the time), drink ingwater, exercising at least four times a week and getting consistent sleep. Get your basis covered so you have the energy to face the uncertain and the random which is life. It’s so simple and still, so few people actually exercise their control.

Once we accept what’s in our control and what isn’t, what burden we have to carry, what responsibilities we must live up to, it is essential that our foundation is solid. Otherwise, we are just helping life hurt us and life doesn’t require our help to do that.

To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept the terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open. It means deciding to voluntarily transform the chaos of potential into the realities of habitable order. It means adopting the burden of self-conscious vulnerability, and accepting the end of the unconscious paradise of childhood, where finitude and mortality are only dimly comprehended. It means willingly undertaking the sacrifices necessary to generate a productive and meaningful reality.

A routine is then a precursor to generating this productive and meaningful reality, to bring order into your life, to give life its structure, so we can “face the demands of life voluntarily”.

Book referenced: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson


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Reflections On Productivity

Laziness and procrastination often come in my way of having a productive day. Having spent years honing these two terrible habits, now I’ve become good at the things I don’t want to be good at. The worst thing is that when I am being lazy or procrastinating, I am well aware of what I should be doing and so, these habits just produce feelings of guilt and shame after having failed to do the right thing. The next day, those feelings of guilt may rule my action and make me stay on the proper path but then the day after, it is back again, fighting these habits, it seems to be an endless struggle if one agrees with Steven Pressfield and his thoughts on Resistance. Which I do and so, this understanding makes the feeling of guilt even worse, for I knowingly give into resistance.

However, there are good days, many of them and those good days are a product of two things. Scheduling the day and following my routine. I work best when I am less “free”. By that I mean, if I know exactly what I need to do at each hour of the day from waking to when I go to sleep, this includes resting, then, I am more likely to follow through with my schedule. In his book, Can’t Hurt Me, David Goggins issues ten challenges to improve one’s own life through your own actions. One of the challenges is to start scheduling your entire day so you can realize how much time you really have, how much time you actually waste and how you can always find time to do the things you want to do. This has been incredibly helpful. Goggins suggests starting this process by taking small steps. This is true with most things. First, simply block out the time that is dedicated to priority items, such as work or school. Once that is scheduled in, one can see what time periods are “empty”. Pockets of time prior to or after the priority items. The second step is then to fill out these “empty” spots with things that you want to do. Goggins says to start simply by scheduling a 20-minute block of time dedicated to a specific want, where you are completely focused on that want for that period of time. Over time, that block can grow and change and each night, you schedule your next day in several blocks of time and one comes to an understanding of how much time they really have and how best to use it.

Scheduling has helped with my procrastination. If I was “free”, meaning I simply had a checklist of things I wanted to do today, I often found myself wasting the day and then trying to cram in my checklist in the evening when I’m tired and lazy. Such a combination often resulted in failure. However, by starting early in the morning and making use of my day, evenings can be more relaxing and I can be at ease, having done the things I wanted to do.

Laziness is still an issue. Which is why a routine is so important. Laziness can be countered by being almost in a robotic state, where one can dial in and focus on their daily routine and start to act without allowing the mind to interfere. Of course, this doesn’t work every day. Resistance wins every now and then but most of the days, I am able to overcome my impulse to do nothing and follow my routine.

Routine and schedule also have an additional benefit. Simply, you can see what you were supposed to do today. If you fail, you can see what you failed at and you can pinpoint the exact part of your routine or schedule where you got off the path. You can also remember the train of thought that made you get off. Reflecting on such things, you can do better next time, see the warning signs coming, know the moment of weakness is approaching and that resistance is fighting back. Here, by saying disciplined, tuning out the mind, and following your routine, you can win the day.