Add Meaning to Life by Building Routine?

Meaning and routine…those are two words we don’t often think of together. Instead, we think of routine as dull, the “same old thing,” and “stuck in a rut.”  Who finds meaning in that? Research, on the other hand, suggests that we gain a greater sense of meaning in our lives when we practice routines. Yes, routines…like starting the day with a simple prayer or daily exercise, walking the same route to work each day or reading a chapter before bed, Friday night pizza or a cup of coffee each morning…routines! Rather than making life dull and predictable, research tells us that such routines actually make life more meaningful! (Read Everyday Routines Make Life Feel More Meaningful and A New Psychological Insight Makes Me Feel Much Less Boring for more). “How can that be?” you ask.

  • Daily routines help us develop a sense of coherence, a sense of self that remains the same over time and place. Routines help us define “who I am” and “what I do.” We become a person who enjoys coffee or a person who enjoys taking a walk. We come to know ourselves as a person who enjoys quiet times of prayer. Whatever routine we develop becomes part of our identity, our sense of self that remains the same across time and place. Of course, this means we need to use caution in developing our routines. We will do best to develop routines that contribute to a positive sense of self. After all, who wants to be the person known as a grumbler because they start every day with complaint? A positive daily routine, on the other hand, can help us develop a stable and positive identity.
  • Daily routines also build a sense of predictability into life. Having a sense of predictability, having an idea of “what comes next,” provides a sense of safety, especially for children. This sense of safety provides an anchor that frees us to take healthy risks in other areas of our lives…which leads to the next point.
  • Daily routines free us to pursue significant goals in our lives. Over time, the routines become a natural part of our day. We don’t have to waste mental energy remembering to do them or even how to do them. Instead, we can focus our energies on goals we consider significant and important to living out our values.
  • Of course, having the energy and thought to pursue more significant goals also gives our life a greater sense of purpose. We can thank daily routines for making this possible.
  • Daily routines for families also provide regular times to develop family relationships, which translates into greater family identity and family intimacy.

In other words, routines have a ripple effect. Positive routines help build a positive identity and a sense of predictability which allows us to pursue significant goals and build a greater sense of purpose. Family routines help build family identity and family intimacy. So, if you really want to help your family and your children build a greater sense of meaning in life, build family routines! Here are a few your children and your family might enjoy.

  • A daily family meal.
  • Bedtime prayers.
  • Taking time each night to read with your children.
  • The “good-bye kiss.”
  • The “I’m home kiss.”
  • Fishing on the weekend.
  • Friday pizza night.
  • Worship weekly.

You get the idea. The kinds of healthy routines you can develop are limited only by your imagination. Whatever you choose, get on out there and establish some family routines. Your family will benefit from gaining a sense of identity and personal meaning. Your children will benefit from a greater sense of identity and personal meaning. You will benefit from enjoying it all!

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