Behind the concept of routine

Habit making and breaking has gained some serious traction in popular culture. Books have been published looking into the hows and whys of habits: why we have them, how they work, how we get them and how we get rid of them. There’s been what feels like an explosion of interest in building beneficial morning routines, and evening routines, and lunch routines, to bring about the benefits of creating balance and reducing the mental stress of decision-making.

This exploration into human behaviour, how one unconsciously lives their life, and how one consciously changes their life, is fascinating and provides a really eye-opening insight into why we do things that just don’t make any sense. These little building blocks are what makes up a day, and then what builds a career, a future, a family and a life. And some consciousness and recognition of the cause and effect of those building blocks is key to creating a life I’m proud to live.

There is a wealth of knowledge exploring the science behind our brains and why we do things, behavioural economics and how to optimise our lives, and the psychological motivations for not doing what we know is good for us. I’ve become an addict of this space, and love writing about it and pondering and questioning my motivations and routines. And there’s so much to be said for writing about a topic; it makes you honest, and it makes you question your assumptions, often resulting in new perspective and a new approach.

So in reading about routine, I got a bit obsessed with the origin of the word. Where did it come from? Does it have any particular meaning or relevance that will make it resonate in a  new way? Is routine the same as habit? Is habit the same as routine?

Routine is defined as ‘a customary or regular course of procedure’. It originated in Old French, meaning  “usual course of action, beaten path” (16c.), coming from  the word route, meaning, “way, path, course”.

Habit is defined as ‘an action done on a regular basis’ or ‘an action performed repeatedly and automatically, usually without awareness’.  It can be traced back to the Latin habeo – meaning, ‘I have, hold, keep’.

These backgrounds just made so much sense to me. We hold or keep our habits; we can’t let go of them without a fight, or a real sense of loss. We follow a usual course of action in our routine, made up of those habits that we hold on to, that we do without knowing, that we can’t imagine living without. We automatically progress down a path, waking up each day, doing what we do, living how we do, speaking to who we speak to, and constantly defining and refining our lives until all those building blocks build us into ourselves.

With these concepts in mind, there can be beneficial introspection and growth. There’s so many things I view in myself and others and question why it is done; why it is the norm; should we change it; and how do we change it. And this project of reflection and improvement is one I see being beneficial for a long time to come.


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