Beware the Trap of the Morning Routine

Morning routines. If you follow any kind of personal development, productivity, or entrepreneurship sites, you’ve probably read about the benefits of a morning routine. How having one can make you happier, healthier, and more productive. Morning routines are a constant topic of conversation in podcasts, books, and blogs alike.

A quick Google search brings up headlines like: The Morning Routines of the Most Successful People on Fast Company, The Ultimate Morning Routine to Make You Happy on Lifehack, and 50 Ideas to Help You Design Your Perfect Morning Routine on Inc. Recommendations include exercise, grounding, meditating, making a gratitude list, setting goals for the day, taking a walk outside, hugging your partner, reading, writing, and so on. And while some endorse the routines of the most successful people, others recognize that each person is different, and encourages us to find our own unique routine.

For the record, I am not anti-morning routine. Not at all. I fully believe in the benefits (both anecdotal and scientific) of a morning routine. In fact, I attribute one of the healthiest, growth-filled stages of my life to my morning routine of working out then spending alone time outside. But here’s what I’ve learned since that stage – life changes. Your needs change. Your priorities change. What makes you happy changes.

When I had my fantastic morning routine, I was single, lived alone, and had a regular job with set hours. That is no longer the case. I am now an entrepreneur working from home and in a relationship with someone I live with. Nothing about my hours or my days is set. My boyfriend works for the fire department so that component alone gives me three different kinds of mornings – mornings he is home, mornings he is gone, and mornings he is on his way home. Not to mention ever-changing working hours to meet article deadlines and record podcast episodes. I struggled for quite some time when I first entered this new stage of life. I desperately wanted to get back into my regular morning routine that brought me so much peace and stress-relief.

I was caught between trying to embrace the natural disorder in my schedule and trying to force order within it, setting my alarm earlier and earlier to carve out some alone time, then feeling guilty when I gave in to my partner’s loving plea to, “just sleep in with me!” That’s when I started to rethink my view of morning routines.

Sayings like go with the flow exist for a reason. Yes, there is power in structure. Our brains love habits and routines. That’s why we tend to drive the same route to work and park in the same vicinity in parking lots. Not to mention tons of other things we do without even thinking, like checking our phone at a red light. But there is also power in flexibility and adapting to change. There is peace in taking things as they come.

In Buddhism, there is a focus on releasing attachments. Attachment is believed to be the root of all suffering and when you really think about it, makes total sense. Routines, goals, and hopes are all wonderful things. But they can also be traps for attachment. We want – and come to expect – life to be a certain way. But when reality shows up in a different form, we are upset, disappointed, and sometimes angry. That is the suffering. We become attached to how we want our mornings, our days, and our timelines to go and we suffer when life has other plans.

And life will have other plans. It is constantly reminding us that we can’t control everything. We can only control ourselves. So yes, you can try to control your mornings. But when life throws you a curveball, the only thing you can control is your reaction, your mindset, and what you do with that curveball.

The point isn’t whether to have a morning routine or not, and then which routine is best. The point is not to get attached to any of it. Sure, have a morning routine if you want. Know what energizes and inspires you first thing in the morning so you can set yourself up for the best day possible. Just don’t cling to it. Don’t force it. Don’t stress over it. When life happens – and it will – give yourself the grace to break from routine and go with the flow.

Happy Slacking,

Kacie Main

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