How The Right Routines Help You Shape Your Ideal Self

It’s time to quit seeking a work-life balance. Instead, create habits and rituals that reflect the best version of yourself.

How The Right Routines Help You Shape Your Ideal Self
[Photo: Flickr user Sebastian Rieger]

You might be reading this article while you’re on summer vacation. If you are, you may have created enough space in your brain to reflect on how much you work the rest of the year.


As research from September 2014 shows, Americans work more nights and weekends than the citizens of any other industrialized nation. If you’re a smartphone-enabled executive, manager, or professional, recent research from the Center for Creative Leadership shows that you’re likely connected to your work for 72 hours a week.

Yeah, you might be saying to yourself, that’s me. I have to find some work-life balance. But here’s the challenge with that. Would you recognize your life if you balanced work and leisure time effectively? What is it exactly? Even if you could define it, would you be able to sustain it?

You might come up with the perfect plan for work-life balance while you’re on vacation. Then when you get back to the office, reality reappears, and you get slammed. As retired professional boxer Mike Tyson once said: “Everybody’s got a plan until they get hit.”

Here’s a suggestion. Quit trying to solve your work-life balance.

Instead, put your focus on showing up at your best more often than not. That’s a much more tangible and achievable goal than hitting the sweet spot on work-life balance. Focusing on showing up at your best will help you increase your self-awareness, make you healthier, think more clearly, strengthen your relationships, and connect you with your purpose. It will also help you create better outcomes at home, at work, and in your community. You can get started on that path by creating your own Life GPS.

The Life GPS is a one-page personal planning tool that I’ve shared with thousands of coaching clients and readers over the past 15 years. With only three questions, it’s a quick way to capture how you are at your best, the routines that will enable that, and the outcomes that flow from it. I go deep on how to complete your Life GPS in my book, Overworked And Overwhelmed, but can teach you the basics of how to create your own right now. Download your Life GPS worksheet and let’s get started.


How Are You At Your Best?

Think back on recent experiences when you’ve felt totally in the zone. It could be that time you nailed a presentation at work. It could be that fun afternoon you spent with your friends and family. It could be when you were immersed in a volunteer project. It could be any experience when you felt you were in flow or at your peak. What are the words or short phrases that describe you in those times? That’s the picture of you at your best.

What Are The Routines That Help You Show Up At Your Best?

Aristotle famously wrote: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” The habits or routines that will enable you to show up at your absolute best are in four domains: physical, mental, relational, and spiritual.

What are the routines that you either have in your life or need in your life that will help you show up at your best? Here are a few principles to remember while you’re choosing your routines:

1. Less Is More
It’s far more effective to have a few routines that cut across two or more domains than to load yourself up with four or five in each category.

2. Make A Difference
Be real with yourself. If you’re not a morning person, then don’t promise yourself that you’re getting up at 5 a.m. for a run every day. Look for routines that are relatively easy for you to do, and likely to make a difference for you.

3. Something Is Better Than Nothing
There’s the optimal version of your routines, and then there’s the minimum viable version of them. It’s a rare day when you can optimize every routine, but even on the craziest days, you can usually squeeze in the minimum. For instance, your optimal physical routine might be a three-mile run. No time for that today? Then how about a brisk 10-minute walk instead? It’s not your optimum, but it’s better than nothing.


What Outcomes Should Flow From Showing Up At Your Best?

In his commentary of the most famous Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita, Mahatma Gandhi wrote: “In regard to every action one must know the result that is expected to follow . . .”

If you were more aware of how you are at your best, and are intentional about showing up that way—then what outcomes would you expect to see in the three big areas of your life: home, work, and community? Write them down but hold them loosely.

As we hear so often, it’s more about the journey than the destination. As the name Life GPS implies, direction and a sense of what you’re trying to do in the different arenas of your life matters a lot. When you’re showing up at your best more consistently, the outcomes may not be exactly what you expected, but the likelihood that you’ll feel good about them is high.

Take The Next Step

Now that you have your Life GPS, take the next step. Pick one routine to focus on grooving over the next few weeks. Print out your Life GPS, or send it to either your phone or tablet so you have it close by. Take a look at it once a week and ask yourself: “How am I doing?” Pick one thing about your routine to adjust based on your answer. Soon, you’re going to own some new routines that will help you show up at your best.

Let’s learn from each other. Share your experiences and questions on the Life GPS Facebook page.