When I got Oz, he was an 11 month old Border Collie mix, smart as a whip and all puppy. The biggest challenge was to keep him entertained so he wouldn’t chew the house up. Initially I was walking him twice a day to burn off some of that puppy exuberance so we could enjoy the sweet dog beneath his often obnoxious and demanding puppy behavior. Each walk got easier and easier as Oz settled into the routines that I was establishing for him. He began to know what to expect. Over time, after some creative chewing experiences, he learned how to fit in.
When I think about the routines that helped Oz fit into our family, I am reminded that we are not really any different than dogs. We like to know what to expect. We tend to create morning and evening routines to begin and end our days with some order. How did we learn to do that? I am sure it was my mother who established the groundwork for me. She got me up at a certain time, insisted I make my bed, eat breakfast and brush my teeth. She kissed me good-bye and I was off to school. After school I had a snack, did homework, played with friends for awhile, had dinner, took a shower or bath, watched a little TV, brushed my teeth, got a goodnight kiss and then I was off to sleep.
So, what’s the big deal? The big deal is that Mom taught me to structure parts of my day so I could get important things done with minimal thought and expenditure of energy. She set the framework for my entire life. Now if I want to develop a new habit, like getting up to exercise in the morning, I just add it to the routine that is already in place. It’s far easier to add a new behavior to an existing structure, where it can become part of an automatic series of steps, than it is to remember and motivate myself to exercise in some other way. Routines are comforting. When you have one, you know what to do.
Have you ever noticed that your dog seems to know what you’re going to do before you do? No, they don’t have ESP, they watch closely to pick up on our routines. It’s comforting to them to know what to expect. They too enjoy the structure, the predictability.
What routines do you have? Are they serving you well? You’ll know they are if you’re able to accomplish your goals with minimal stress, crisis and angst. Is it time to do an overhaul of your routines to accomplish more of what you really want? If so, do it and reap the rewards of a more comfortable, contented life–just like dogs!