Topic Tuesday: Routines

“Putting the Routine to Rest” (By: Maria Grasso)

I tend to think I’m a pretty smmaria grasso picart gal.  I placed pretty high in my middle school, spelling bee after all (that’s an indicator, right?).  So it’s mind bending to figure out why it took me 27 years to understand the difference between two simple English words.

My addiction to the word “routine” was certainly in play at a young age.  I discovered pretty early on that if you create systems, then you usually know what you are going to get.  Plug and chug.  So I did, and for the most part it worked.  My addiction to routine, when left to the wild mind of this overly passionate teenage girl, came to be a major cause for my battle with anorexia, though.

Cool, now let’s skip a bunch of stuff and cut straight to the chase.

As I recovered the unexpected happened, I fell even more deeply into Routine’s dizzying spell.

WHAT? HOW?  (Sweet, thanks for asking!)

Well, I was fixated on what I knew and conditioned only to respond to the familiar.  I was aware that I was recovering but stuck on the big, bad “how”.  I basically took the same wheel I had been spinning around in like a little gerbil and just made it bigger. Bigger wheels are always better, right? I knew what my old routine got me, so if I just multiplied the calories a bit, I wouldn’t die, and I would recover.  Two cheers for me, I figured it all out! Hooray…

My obsession with routine gave me the context to develop my eating disorder AND recover from it…how could that be? See, I already had the systems in place, I just manipulated them to achieve a different result.  Insert more coins, pull more levers, get more prizes.

It’s not hard for us outsiders to see that little ol’ me was not in recovery (also, I’m a poet).  Let’s fast forward to the point here.  I didn’t understand basic English.

A plan and a routine are two VERY different things.  Successful people have a plan for what they are going to do with the time gifted to them in order to achieve a very worthy goal or ideal AND they actually make progress on it.  Cool. Love it, that’s totally what I wanted…and totally what I was NOT doing.

I was thinking “plan” and acting “routine”.  A routine (especially mine) basically amounts to insanity, though…doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. There was no worthy ideal or goal I was after, in fact it was quite unworthy…and superficial…and dangerous.  I was repeating action after action because I knew what it would get me.  And if you know me, I like to know what I’m getting.  Shocking.

I was caught up in an insane version of what I had thought was a “plan”, just like all the awesomely, successful people I knew. What I didn’t realize is that I was so far from being “successful”…I was just doing stuff for stuff’s sake.  I had no worthy ideal in mind, and no progress towards it.  See that’s what the plan is for…progress.  Somebody should have given me a darn dictionary.

I figured this all out about two years ago when my boyfriend at the time was making me some wild dinner of salmon and cream-cheese filled croissants.  This was not our first crazy cuisine rodeo, friends.  We had been doing this for quite some time now.

I remember saying to him, “Hey, did you know you kind of saved my life?”.

What happened to me, started here with him and our relationship. I had a worthy ideal in mind always: quality time.  That ideal was more valuable to me than routine, and now I wanted a plan for how to constantly progress towards that ideal.

I did not share with you the part of the story where I told him that I was afraid of eating things outside of my “routine”.  This might be the most critical element in moving from your routine to your plan.  If we share our fears with others, it’s often the first step in overcoming them.  People who love you want to help you step over your fears on your way to something better.  They want to show you that the hideous swamp monster hanging out in your closet really is just a shadow of something from your past.

Can you promise to do these two things today? First, jump off routine and do something that you’ve always wanted to do that honestly scares the pants off of you.  Then, go thank the person who always told you that you could.

About the Author

Maria Grasso has a passion for people and commitment to education.  In her youth, she served as a Youth Ambassador for a United Nations Association development program in both South Africa and Namibia where she assisted in school development and built water sanitation facilities and homes for rural families. After graduation, Maria moved to Houston, Texas to work in urban education and nonprofit administration at an innovative Houston high school for economically disadvantaged students, while completing her Master’s of Business Administration. Currently, she serves as Executive Director of a youth success program that exposes high school and college students to the proven systems and techniques, that when properly practiced, give students a 7-year head start on their career and life. Maria is an advocate for using your body for strength—and loves motivating friends and family to reach their goals and laugh along the way!