Routines, Habits and Rituals

Author: Noemi Rios

Ever been around someone that always finishes your sentences, or someone who tends to apologize right before asking a question? Someone who is always humming as they work? Ever grabbed an empty carton of juice, milk or whatever only to realize it was put back in the refrigerator instead of being tossed into the trash?

These are just a few examples that illustrate you are so much more than just your conscious self.  This is why psychologist Carl Jung said:

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” 

Roughly 95% of what we do daily is considered to be automated. You go into a dark room and your hand automatically starts feeling the wall in search of a light switch. You arrive home and turn on the TV, or pour yourself a glass of wine, or let your dog out for a quick run around the yard, go to sleep really late because you were watching YouTube or TikTok videos… all these things are done without thinking, on autopilot. Most people call these routines. An actor by the name of Frederick Matthias Alexander referred to them as habits when he said:

“People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.”

What a POWERFUL, yet simple observation! To think you can decide and shape your future right now, in the present. It stands to reason, then, whatever our habits, our routines, our day-to-day rituals are… they deeply impact what our lives will look like one, five, 10-years from now, and ultimately the very last day of our life. What you do when you’re being your “unconscious self”, roughly 95% of the time, is more important than what you do when you’ve had an epiphany, those “aha” moments, when you’re motivated (the remaining 5%). This is by design. Your brain finds it rewarding when things are easy.

Imagine then if you could somehow get that 95% of yourself to do the things you want while you’re on autopilot.  The good news is you can begin shaping that unconscious part of yourself!  

How does change happen?

  • Awareness: Awareness that a behavior no longer serves you and needs modification to become the person you wish to be (i.e. eat healthier, start running, begin writing a book, a student who studies, etc.)
  • Intention: You decipher an intention or a goal you wish to replace the old behavior.
  • Behavior: Implementation of the new behavior which will help you achieve the intention. 
  • System: You create patterns that will help you enforce that behavior.
  • Practice: You practice the heck out of that behavior and modify the system that allows the behavior to become easy to do continuously (yes, well past 21-days).
  • Automation: After so much practice, it starts to be something you don’t even think about anymore and simply do automatically.
  • Identity Shift: It is no longer something you do, but simply who you are (i.e. you are a healthy person, you are a runner, you are an author, you are a life-long learner, etc.)

The steps are simple enough, aren’t they? But you and I know “simple” doesn’t equal “easy”. It does take some effort. The key is to make the changes as easy and small as humanly possible so they “stick”. Think, for example, of a laptop on overload when you ask it to do too many things at once. It freezes and you eventually have to shut it down to be able to work again. Likewise, your brain resists too many commands at the same time. You’ll only have a fighting chance if you’re not having to rely on motivation to plow ahead each time. Getting a handle on your current habits and routines will allow you to build new habits you can be proud of. 

In the next article to this series, we’ll delve into HOW to create change that sticks.