I create routines, consciously and unconsciously, and they certainly create me.

For example, what I do at the start and end of each day, prepare and conduct meetings, shop for food, dry myself after showering, review my weekly activities, finances and learnings, or even persistent patterns in how I think and relate in social contexts.

In addition to reflecting on the qualities and quality of practice within these routines, the place of learning recently is noticing their existence, deliberately documenting them, their patterns, triggers, form, persistence (across time or contexts), and observing their enaction and impact on others from a more objective perspective.

For example, the patterns in notes and resolutions made after periods of intense contemplation, the variability of the timing and consistency of my physical training, the approach I take to learning in different domains, what I continue to avoid doing no matter how much I writes notes to myself reinforcing it’s importance, or what I continue to do as a professional even when it is observably ineffective.

In noticing these patterns and their repetition, I can often see development, but rarely at the pace I anticipated. This critical view reveals a learning about: my attention on conscious, deliberate “practices” as being the primary vehicle for progress, everything I’m insistently doing repeatedly every day that isn’t in the intended direction of development, and the underlying motivations for any and all of my activities.

For example, noticing that changing contexts (where I live, my job, who I hang out with) often lead to more positive changes than any amount of committed practice within a consistent context, wearing my watch on my right instead of left wrist as an example of a change that feels awkward and uncomfortable but makes no difference, admitting I don’t know something and asking even when that feels like gut-wrenching failure and my pattern is to avoid it, or completely stopping doing something (sending a regular email newsletter) I was assured was of value and instead corresponding personally with the one person that noticed its absence.

Abandoning all routines, all practice, everything I’m doing is an option. For now, I’m just recognising my routines, relaxing, and becoming increasingly conscious of: what and why I’m doing things, where my attention is and how those patterns are repeated. In each moment, there is the possibility to relate to what is actually happening, release the patterning, respond freshly, and observe any effects as part of a deliberate experiment.

There is freedom here, it seems, this place of realisation about routines. Becoming more vigilant and timely in reflecting on the doing, repeating, and variable alignment of motivation, action and benefit. And noticing that really, what I am is not trapped actually in any of it.