Could Routine be a Replacement for Motivation?

People often say that they don’t want to work a 9-5 job or that they hate routine. As much as we hear this over and over, we still see the majority of people doing exactly that. Humans are creatures of habit, we tend to eat the same thing for breakfast at the same time, in the same place, get our coffee from the same Starbucks, do the same activities each week, etc.

I’m going to propose something that occurred to me a couple of weeks ago, and it might be a bit counter-intuitive. Usually, we imagine motivation and drive (in business, in relationships, in life) as actively thinking about how to do better or how to do more. But maybe, just maybe, routine can act as a replacement for long-term motivation.

2017-01-23 Routine

What I mean by this is that if you can ingrain certain things into your daily routine and make them habit, you won’t need active thought to try to get such things done. For example, going to the gym every morning before work (which I don’t do but I should) is something that can become so second-nature that people will feel worse if they miss it. Even if you hate the gym, doing it enough times at the same time will make it become part of the routine and you won’t think about it more than you’d think of eating breakfast or brushing your teeth.

When you see people who are “super motivated” because they’re going to the gym every morning, you might be overestimating their motivation; they might have only needed motivation for the first two months. I won’t argue that you can slip into a good routine or healthy practices without any motivation at all, but that down the line, establishing good routines can help lead toward the same results as “being motivated all the time”, as some people seem.

Routine is something that should be avoided if the routine leads to bad habits: eating right before bed (though I believe the science on this is questionable), smoking when you drink, forgetting to put the toilet seat down when traveling with a female, etc. BUT, in some cases, you can probably develop some great habits that can come to the rescue when you say “I should go to the gym, but I’m feeling kinda lazy and I’m hungry and tired”.

Fun fact, that was my excuse and now I’m here writing this. But don’t follow my example!

2017-01-23 Healthy

Another decent example is eating healthy. I already mentioned the idea of not eating before bed as a good habit to get into, but it can even extend to buying food. If you’re lacking the motivation to eat healthy, getting into the habit of buying healthier food will break that. Of course the first time avoiding the soda and chips aisle might be painful, but eventually it becomes second nature.

This might seem obvious, but the key point I’d like to make here is that finding motivation to do healthy things and make good choices can be hard, but baking it into routine (with a bit of initial motivation) will save you from constantly needing to find (and feel bad about not finding) it later.