"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." ~Annie Dillard
I've been thinking a lot about the dichotomy of routine and adventure.
The vast majority of life is routine. The normal days. The familiar faces. Easily forgettable moments. If you love your routine, you'll love your life.
Sprinkled across everyday life are the adventures. The breaks from the ordinary. Unfamiliar people and places. Some moments we never forget.
Adventures make a life more full and colorful. They give you stories to tell your kids, or stories others tell about you when you're not there.
Being younger, I remember thinking that everything had to be an adventure. There was an urgency, an impatience, to have crazy experiences. Every outing to the bars needed to be the most epic time ever. Every Cabo trip had to outdo the last. I was always chasing, rushing, spending, trying to ratchet up.
Growing older, I've been able to settle down into more of a routine and enjoy a slower pace of life. Maybe this happens to everyone as they transition out of their twenties and into their thirties.
So much happiness comes from having a daily routine that I love. So many memories come from life's adventures. There is a balance between living an average, boring yet happy life and chasing an extraordinary life at the expense of what actually makes us happy, healthy individuals.
Maybe one idea is to align your routine with exciting goals and focus on at least one small gain per day. One gain per day seems doable and ordinary enough. Setting goals where you also enjoy the day-to-day is key, as James Clear says, "It’s easy to chase results without realizing you would hate the lifestyle."
I think it's about building a routine you love, where you love and savor the average days, but also to not getting too comfortable. Break the routine often. I don't want a life that gets less interesting as I get older.
Building a Routine You Love
I think everything in life is art. What you do. How you dress. The way you love someone, how you talk. Your smile and your personality. What you believe in, and all your dreams. The way you drink your tea. How you decorate your home. Or party. Your grocery list. The food you make. How your writing looks. And the way you feel. Life is art.
~Helena Bonham Carter
We spend most of our non-sleeping hours either at work, or at home with our families. Finding a career that fits you is crucial. Loving where you live, the city, the neighborhood, your house, is crucial. Loving who you're with is crucial.
So much love and joy in my life comes from Ashley, and this makes me believe that this is the biggest thing in life to get right.
Tim Urban jokes, "when you choose a life partner, you’re choosing a lot of things, including your parenting partner and someone who will deeply influence your children, your eating companion for about 20,000 meals, your travel companion for about 100 vacations, your primary leisure time and retirement friend, your career therapist, and someone whose day you’ll hear about 18,000 times. Intense shit."
You have to get the big things right, these decisions shape your life more any other decisions you make. Getting these things right take a lot of work, and require a lot of work to keep right. I love my job, I love where I live, and I love Ashley, and I constantly remind myself to never take that for granted.
I tried hard to create the life that I have and I'm glad I came across the idea of lifestyle design in my twenties.
Lifestyle design is about living with intention. It's putting creative thought into big decisions, like your job and where to live, and small decisions like daily habits and hobbies and how you spend your money. It's about living on your own terms, designing your life instead of letting society design it for you.
It's lifestyle as art.
"You gotta know what you want your day to look like. That’s how you build a life." ~Ryan Holiday
Building a routine that you love starts with figuring out what your ideal normal day looks like.
Ryan Holiday nails it when he says, "One can’t design a life around what it’s like to be on vacation. Vacations are not real.... What we need is something sustainable. Something balanced. Something deliberate without being forced. Purposeful without being obsessed with productivity. We need something like a great Saturday—or one of those Mondays where you’re not sure if it’s part of a three-day weekend, resulting in just enough work that it’s productive, but not so much that it’s a chore."
It's worth repeating because the little details matter. Sustainable. Balanced. Deliberate without being forced. Purposeful without being obsessed with productivity.
Debbie Millman recommends that you actually write your perfect day down, "write like your life depends on it, because it does."
I've thought a lot about this, written it out, and experimented over the years. It works.
I've found a rhythm that I love. A slow start to the day, an active morning, work from home, home-cooked meals, relaxing with Ashley and getting to bed around 10. My daily rhythm is mostly the same, with the dance being a bit varied day by day.
Even during the coronavirus lockdown the past 2 months, most of my days have felt like perfect days, and I'm so grateful.
My daily rhythm is about to change in a big way with my little girl days away from being born. I'm excited to break the routine and for the adventure of parenting to begin.
Savoring the Routine
“Life is not just the passing of time. Life is the collection of experiences and their intensity.” ~Jim Rohn
Just like the lyrics, "If you can't be with the one you love, honey, then love the one you're with," you should build a routine you love while also trying to love the routine while you build.
Savoring is the act of stepping outside of an experience to review and appreciate it. Often we fail to stay in the moment and really enjoy what we’re experiencing. Savoring intensifies and lengthens the positive emotions that come with doing something you love.
Ryan Holiday tells us about Marcus Aurelius and how he liked to tuck his children into bed at night. "the final and most philosophical part of his routine came as he put them to sleep. Kissing them, he would say quietly to himself, “Don’t rush this. This might be the last time you do this. It’s not guaranteed that either of you will make it through the night.” So he drank the moment in. He was present. He loved them. He cherished this thing in front of him, which really was the most important thing in his life, and then he said goodnight."
"Don't rush this." ~Marcus Aurelius
My nights will soon be spent tucking my little princess into bed. Until then, I try and savor my slow mornings, my long runs, and mellow evenings with Ash.
There is a difference between getting through the day, and actually enjoying the day. Going slow usually helps. As David Lynch says, "Just slow things down and it becomes more beautiful."
“I’m a believer in the ordinary and the mundane. These guys that talk about ‘quality time’ — I always find that a little sad when they say, ‘We have quality time.’ I don’t want quality time. I want the garbage time. That’s what I like. You just see them in their room reading a comic book and you get to kind of watch that for a minute, or having a bowl of Cheerios at 11 o’clock at night when they’re not even supposed to be up. The garbage, that’s what I love.” ~Jerry Seinfield
The potential danger of routine is being on autopilot, passing through life without thinking. Being a zombie. Coasting.
There is a fine line between coasting and purposely slowing down to enjoy the scenery along the way. Routine can be beautiful if we notice it, and appreciate it. With a certain perspective, some routine moments can be anything but routine.
Breaking the Routine
As Robin Sharma said, "You should not live the same year 75 times and call it a life."
We need to set goals and grow. Life shouldn't get boring. We need surprises. We need to make memories.
Morgan Housel had an interesting insight about the effect of memories on the perception of time. He says, "the perception of time relies on the number of memories formed in a period, and memories are encoded from new and surprising experiences. The monotony of commuting to work on the same road for 20 years passes without leaving a mark. But every day is a memorable surprise to a child experiencing her first summer camp, or learning how big the universe is for the first time... Time slowed in March (COVID-19) because for the first time since childhood many of us are being bombarded with new and surprising experiences."
Sometimes surprising experiences happen to us, like with the current coronavirus crisis.
Sometimes special moments happen serendipitously. A powder day with my best friends on one of the last days that Mammoth was open before the coronavirus hit. We can create serendipity through more doing and more noticing.
Setting big goals creates big moments, like crossing a finish line, or summiting a mountain with friends.
The last 2 years I've reflected on my most meaningful moments of the year, and I've learned that creating memories is largely in my control. It's about buying the ring, signing up for the race, planning the excursion, rallying the crew, putting in the work and trying to execute on the plan.
Life should be an adventure. Unique experiences are like trophies for the soul.
“I'd like to repeat the advice that I gave you before, in that I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun."
~From "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer
I love thinking back to the Mountain Collective road trip that Ashley and I did, driving from mountain town to mountain town, through blizzards, bundled up in blankets with no heater in the car. I love thinking back to my first Ironman, and accomplishing that goal.
I'm excited to make new memories with Lil'P. So many firsts we get to look forward to. Family vacations.
I'm also looking forward to the ordinary days. The new routine.