Choose Your Rut Carefully
I read somewhere that in the early days of the Alaska Highway, tractor-trailer trucks would make deep ruts in the gravel as they carried construction equipment to boomtowns up north. Someone posted this sign at the beginning of the road: CHOOSE YOUR RUT CAREFULLY, YOU’LL BE IN IT FOR THE NEXT 200 MILES.
Loving Your Routine
In this excerpt by a Welsh Farmer, Wilf Davies, we hear about someone who finds his routines life-giving, as opposed to soul-sucking. I can’t help but think it has something to do with his occupation, Davies is a sheep farmer.
I have a routine, just like nature. That extends to what I eat. I’ve had the same supper for 10 years, even on Christmas Day: two pieces of fish, one big onion, an egg, baked beans and a few biscuits at the end. For lunch I have a pear, an orange and four sandwiches with paste. But I allow myself a bit more variety; I’ll sometimes have soup if it’s cold.
When I go to the supermarket, I know exactly what I want. I’m not interested in other food. I’ve never had Chinese, Indian, French food. Why change? I’ve already found the food I love. It would be a job to alter me. My uncle, a bachelor and farmer like me, had the same food for every meal. He had bread, butter, cheese and tea for breakfast, lunch and dinner (although he would bring out the jam for visitors).
Whether it’s Easter Day or Christmas Day, being a farmer means every day is the same. The animals still need to be fed. Feeding the sheep and seeing how happy they are makes me happy, too. They never ask for anything different for supper.
People might think I’m not experiencing new things, but I think the secret to a good life is to enjoy your work.
Article: Experience: I’ve had the Same Supper for 10 Years, by Wilf Davies, The Guardian.
Performing the Lowliest Task
Sometimes service means doing routine tasks even if we could have someone else do them. There is a story about Abraham Lincoln – possibly apocryphal but certainly in character – that a cabinet member expressed surprise that the president of the United States was blacking his own boots. Lincoln responded, “Whose boots do you expect me to black?”… Nobody is too good to perform the lowliest task.
The Surprising Truth about Happiness, Habits, and Self Control
As a writer, my great interest is human nature, and in particular, the subject of happiness. A few years ago, I noticed a pattern: when people told me about a “before and after” change they’d made that boosted their happiness, they often pointed to the formation of a crucial habit…
Habits were the key to understanding how people were able to change. But why did habits make it possible for people to change? I found the answer, in part, in a few sentences whose dry, calm words disguised an observation that, for me, was explosively interesting.
“Researchers were surprised to find,” write Roy Baumeister and John Tierney in their fascinating book Willpower, “that people with strong self-control spent less time resisting desires than other people did.… people with good self-control mainly use it not for rescue in emergencies but rather to develop effective habits and routines in school and at work.”
In other words, habits eliminate the need for self-control. Self-control is a crucial aspect of our lives. People with better self-control (or self-regulation, self-discipline, or willpower) are happier and healthier. They’re more altruistic; they have stronger relationships and more career success; they manage stress and conflict better; they live longer; they steer clear of bad habits. Self-control allows us to keep our commitments to ourselves.
Taking Inventory: Essential for Life, Especially While Raising Kids
Parker Palmer’s book Let Your Life Speak arrested my heart a few years back. It begins with a poem by William Stafford, “Ask Me”, that begs this question: “Some time when the river is ice ask me mistakes I have made. Ask me whether what I have done is my life.It was the first book that challenged me to take inventory of my days, to consider my thoughts, actions, and daily routine. I began to ask myself, Is the life I lead the life that longs to live in me?
When I first asked myself this question, my life was consumed with Target returns and Chick-fil-A playdates. It had been a decade swallowed by Pull-Ups and pacifiers and poop. Though these motherhood moments weren’t the whole of my life’s longing, they were largely the makeup of my days. I’d never considered the life that longed to live in me. Fast-forward eighteen years. I’m not only organizing playdates; I’m navigating first dates.
We’ve moved from Pull-Ups to outfitting our kids in sports jerseys and athletic gear for summer camp. Raising four children, three of whom are now teenagers, comes with a boatload of bustle. But no matter the season—whether new motherhood or raising teens—pausing to take inventory has saved my life. When I find myself too busy for it, I’m lost. When I make time for it, I gain critical perspective.