Ever since I was a youngster in grade school I’ve appreciated the expected daily ebbs and flows of a simple life. I’m talking breakfast basics, friendly hi-fives, and that familiar faux-leather on shiny yellow busses.
Back then I would wake up, go to school, and hit basketball practice after the final bell. The latter half of the day would include homework and dinner with my family.
Day after day, week after week, it was a carbon copy with only slight variation. It seemed time stood still and nothing much changed around me.
As I continue growing into adulthood I’ve started to observe how my personal routines affect my surroundings as well as observations of change in others.
If I’m honest with myself, little has been the same in my life since I walked off a college campus. And yet I find myself clinging to routines—however insignificant in size—to maintain order and some semblance of clarity.
One of James Altucher’s greatest gospels surrounds the idea of a daily practice. Proper hydration, movement, mental stimulation, spiritual fulfillment, love. It strikes a chord and I believe it holds a great deal of value as it relates to routines and what we control versus what we do not.
Problem is, routines don’t really make sense of the life that spins around us. They create a sense of internal consistency, sometimes using pillars of our daily lives as unspoken landmarks. Landmarks that, if changed, can spawn internal strife.
Recently I’ve been thinking about life one year ago. The office where I would work, the people I would see, the friends I would converse with; things like that. It startled me to consider just how much was changing around me in such a brief period of time.
It would seem to me that more than ever, life, its people, and their situations are rarely staying the same. There is constant movement.
Colleagues changing course. Friends questioning the cities they live. Cheerful baristas taking corporate jobs. A neighborhood block is being demolished ahead of new construction.
I observe people reaching out, grasping at straws, revealing their true colors, taking risks and speaking up. I’ve seen babies not yet ready for life, passing on; but also, babies ready for life, strongly taking hold. Clients that become friends and clients that become disappointments.
Through it all, I sit with my hands in the sand, constantly digging out a trench around me so the water doesn’t sweep me away. I’m in the circle.
But I know my circle, too, will wash away again and again as I move along life’s shoreline. It’s a cyclical pattern of constants readjusted by life’s tides just beyond the trench.
My Dad would always tell me during transitional times, without fail:
The only constant in life is change, Chris.
His reminder means new things to me each year, but it paints a very appropriate picture for how the world spins and what we do in an attempt to throttle it. We build routines to better ourselves, but to also shield our core from consistent surprises.
If this happens, it’s ok; I still have that.
Routines maintain order. Routines are an avenue to personal freedom even when the drops of change hammer on the roof louder than ever before.
The routine of change, however, must also be applied to our daily practice.
I say we scramble our eggs, sip that familiar drink, and catch up with a happy face. Daily. But within the seeds we sow and between those lines of life, realize these things, too, will eventually change. Maybe by an inch, but perhaps by a mile.
There is more here. Much more. But at this point, let’s remember to allow room for life’s change to occur. Routines cannot prevent inevitabilities; only prepare our humble souls to better react when that which is around us becomes unfamiliar.
It will be familiar again one day. And then it won’t be.