Funny; when we feel like we’re winning we describe it as being “in the groove” or “on track”. When we’re feeling loserly, we say we’re “in a rut”.
They’re all the same thing. We live life in patterns.
The only difference is whether or not the track, groove, or rut is traveling in the direction you want. Either way, we’re all in a rut, almost all of the time. And that’s a good thing.
You might think I’m talking about habits, but that’s really only part of the groove. I think of habits as your built-in auto-pilot. It sometimes takes a Herculean effort to change a habit. Again, that’s a good thing because once you succeed in developing a good habit, you’re likely to stick with it for a long time, enjoying massive pay-offs with minimal effort.
Practices, on the other hand, are intentional patterns. They require conscious awareness. I didn’t say effort because, unlike habits, they can be relatively easy to implement. A daily practice requires a bit of attention and intention, and while it’s not exactly auto-pilot, the barrier to entry is easier than forming a new habit.
Sometimes practices can become habits. If you’re intentional about flossing before bed every night, eventually you’ll begin doing it without thinking about it. It may get to be so automatic that you find yourself asking later, “Did I floss or not?”
Some practices may never become an automatic habit. Complex learning environments and creative work both fall into this category. Learning new songs on a musical instrument, writing a book, or fitness training are all examples of potential daily practices that will likely never be thoughtless or effortless. But you can set yourself up for success by structuring your days in ways that reduce the friction of taking action.
For me, taking advantage of momentum is incredibly helpful for developing a consistent practice. If I can implement something as part of a morning routine, it’s more likely to get done. But there’s only so much morning in a day! Also, I’ve recently rejoined the working class with a job that has me up at 5am most mornings.
The next best thing is to plan my most important practices around the momentum I already have in the day.
I get home from work around 4:30 in the afternoon – exhausted. My plan on workdays is to get into the gym by 5:00 pm. I know the more time I take to unwind after work, the tougher it’s going to be to convince myself to start moving.
I know this may seem obvious. Most people who workout consistently say the same thing. But I think we underestimate the power of a daily intentional practice. An intentional daily practice is the difference between being in the groove or being in a rut.
Like it or not, we’re creatures of habit. We tend to run in wave patterns like the energetic beings we are. What’s really rad though, is that we usually have a lot of control over what those patterns look like and where we go.
I once heard that a rut is just a coffin with the ends knocked out. That’s not too far off. If you’re floating with no intention then you’re likely perishing like fruit that’s fallen from the tree – bouncing whichever direction, coming to rest wherever you land, until spoil and rot define your life.
We humans get a lucky break. We have the power to overcome gravity. It doesn’t take much for us to alter our entire life from perishing to prospering. A small, intentional, daily practice is all it takes. Don’t underestimate the immense power of a small daily practice. A single atom can set off a chain of events that demonstrates the immense power contained within us all.
Treat your small, intentional, daily practice like your life depends on it.