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Meredith Holt, Published January 30 2013

Routines serve a purpose but can also hold us back

FARGO - Carolyn Baana of Breakthrough Strategies says we wake up with a certain amount of willpower each day and every decision we make depletes it.

“When something in our life becomes habit or routine, we don’t think about that decision anymore,” says the Fargo-based business performance coach.

If you have peanut butter toast for breakfast every morning, for example, it becomes routine and one less decision you have to make.

“It seems boring, but you might end up at the office with more energy when you make fewer decisions before you get there,” she says.

Similarly, you don’t expend much mental energy brushing your teeth because you don’t make the choice to do it – you just do it.

Not all routines are benign, however.

“If it’s a routine to pick up your kids from school and go through a drive-thru because it’s easy and you don’t even think about it, that’s a bad routine,” Baana says.

Whether their outcomes are good or bad, sometimes we don’t realize our behaviors have become routines because they’re so automatic.

Every routine was new at one point, but they don’t always continue to serve us well, Baana says.

To reassess a routine, ask yourself, “Am I choosing to do this? Or am I doing it because it’s just what I do?”

In a business setting, she says adhering too closely to routine can squash creativity.

Operating strictly under the notion that “this is just the way we do it” can prevent progress, both professionally and personally.

Fargo-based life coach Jodee Bock says interrupting established routines can break monotony, allowing for new ideas, opportunities, experiences and perspectives.

“We are living our lives half asleep most of the time because we’re in those routines and we’re in those patterns, not always positively,” says Bock, of Bock’s Office Transformational Consulting.

If you’re trying to break a habit or change a routine, Baana advises monitoring yourself by keeping track of what you do and when you do it.

“If you write it down for yourself, that gives it more power and it gives it more clarity,” she says.

In her consultant work, Bock helps clients determine the “why” – why they want to change.

“Most of the time, when people set goals or decide they want to do something, they get stuck in the ‘how,’ ” she says. “If you get a big enough ‘why,’ the ‘how’ shows up.”

There’s a reason self-help and how-to books top the best-seller lists – everyone’s seeking the “how” – but without a “why,” most “hows” will be short term.

“Until I find my ‘why,’ nobody else’s ‘how’ is going to work for me,” Bock explains.

For Kelsy Pulvermacher, the “how” came naturally because the “why” depended on her for all of her needs.

When she and her boyfriend had their daughter 6 months ago, like any new parents, they were forced to change their routines.

“It drastically changed from being able to do whatever I wanted to having to do whatever she wanted, and obviously she’s a little more important,” the 23-year-old Fargo woman says.

Because of little Gracie, among other things, Pulvermacher has had to change her sleep patterns and spending habits.

They get up multiple times a night, and they go out to eat and to the movies less to save money for things like diapers and formula.

“Everyone knows that a baby’s expensive, but you don’t know how expensive they really are until you have one,” she says.

But they’ve adapted, and she says it’s worth it.

“When you become a parent, you just do it. I don’t know how else to explain it,” Pulvermacher says. “Any parent would probably say the same thing.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590