I don’t do well off my routine. I’m not a driven person. I do not come by self-control naturally. If left to myself – I would flounder all day long.
All life long.
I found a way to help me keep steady, calm, productive, and optimistic – create an autopilot.
I’ve been working for years on adding slowly to my autopilot cue. No rushing, pushing, or measuring up to others. Just add one layer at a time. Good routines are formed in layers.
Morning routines, work and writing routines, homeschool routines, housecleaning routines, getting ready routines, leaving the house routines – you get my point. It’s all about critically discerning what I do, in what order, and for what benefit. Then writing it down and doing it again – in the same way – taking note of the effects and repeat until a habit is formed.
Good habits are satisfying. Seeing progress, goals accomplished, and happiness in the family are so fulfilling. I have been so encouraged by others who are farther ahead in the discipline journey than I am, but I’ve learned that routines and discipline are intimately personal. The what I do comes from the why I do it – and that looks different for each of us.
So I was happily plugging away at my routines until I went on a cleanse and started researching essential oils, all while knee deep in the process of buying a house (no small thing). Who knew 3 perfectly neutral things in and of themselves could humble me so much.
I have said I’m sorry more times in the past 2 weeks than I have in the past 10 months.
Making multiple decisions at the same time stresses me out. Wanting to do the best thing has cost more than I’ve wanted to sacrifice.
It’s breaking me that I need to constantly remember – don’t eat that, rub this oil on feet, this one has to have a carrier oil, and scan one more document to email the underwriter ASAP. All this thinking, deciding and choosing is constantly stretching my brain. It’s exercising my mental muscles and forcing me to own who is behind the routine. Who I am when I don’t have to think about decisions and who I am when I’m faced with 100 decisions at once can be 2 different people.
I had gained a certain amount of confidence from all my routines functioning well, but now that I’ve been crushed multiple times from the weight of circumstances and too many decisions that I’ve called my confidence into question.
So I went on a walk today and asked myself: what’s the big deal that I’m disappointed with what I chose to do? Did I mean to hurt anyone? Does anyone really care anyway? Am I just being hard on myself for the sake of punishing myself for having a stupid moment? And am I willing to submit to this circumstance and accept that it happened – and it’s over? Am I allowed to move on?
- It shows people around me that I have flaws. I don’t like my weaknesses and failures exposed.
- No, I didn’t mean to hurt or offend anyone.
- No one cares or even remembers. If they do then it’s their issue not mine.
- Yes, I think I’m being too hard on myself and I’m not very good at correcting my behavior with negativity. Punishing myself will not push me to better behavior next time.
- Yes, I can accept that it’s done. I can’t erase it. It’s history.
- (Deep breath) I’m ready to move on. No one benefits from me staying in this hypersensitive state of disappointment.
This was me working through one of the keys to self-control: the self-critique. In order to submit to life’s circumstances and serve my family with love and respect, I must revisit the lessons of self-control often. It isn’t a one and done test. And failing one test doesn’t disqualify me from my role in life. My kids still need a mother, my husband still needs a companion, and my God still graciously calls me His daughter.
Dr. John Piper once said in a Q&A session at the THINK conference that 95% (he said “I’ll just pick a number” so that isn’t a hard statistic) of behavior is unpremeditated. Most of the time I don’t have time to think about how to respond – so the 95% of my behavior that I don’t think about must be governed by a transformed mind. The 5% of my decisions are going to be the big ones, he said, “like where you’re going to work, who you’re going to marry, and a few other things. But most of what you do, you do not have time to think about it.” (See the video of this Q&A here – the portion referenced here starts at 33:00)
So I need to be prepared. I need to know what I’m studying. I need to guard my mind, and actively renew it. Life does just happen. At the end of an hour, a day, or my life I want to have worked hardest on renewing my mind and not just on forming routines. Because at the end of it all whether on or off routine, my mind and heart will prove me right or wrong. Good or evil.
The past couple of weeks and days have revealed to me that I have been able to cover up some of my poor thinking. I have had to face that I still have a long way to go. There is a lot more for me to learn about myself and how I behave. For me, being a life long learner means that these seasons, days, and moments – the breaking and remaking parts – are used to grow deeper roots. Bigger storms always come, more significant tests will take me off guard, and in those future times – it will be what I learned about myself now that will inform the decisions I make.
Facing a hard season of decisions or simply a change in routine that throws everything off isn’t bad. I love the quote: “Hard isn’t bad. It’s just hard.” Accepting that something is hard and requires work is sometimes the most difficult step for me.
In the end, all of my hard work has paid off.
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