“The quality of life you experience is a direct result of your routines.”

This time of year, people talk about resolutions. “This year, I’m gonna do this or that!” But according to US News and World Report, about 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail, typically by mid-February. Why?

Because resolutions are not the same as results.

I’ve made new year’s resolutions time and time again, but achieved no lasting results. Because resolutions don’t produce results. Routines do. Webster defines a routine as, “a regular course of procedure.” In other words, a habit, a ritual. Something that I do over and over again, as a regular course of procedure. 

Every morning (and I mean every morning) I have a particular routine. I do the same thing whether it’s Monday through Friday, or the weekend. I do it first thing when I get up, every time. And it produces fantastic results every time.

I make coffee. 

And I don’t mean just any coffee. Oh no. I’m a coffee snob. That means I start with 24 ounces of fresh filtered water, then grind 9 tablespoons of Jamaican Blue Mountain Blend whole bean coffee in a conical burr grinder. I then brew the coffee at 195 degrees for 6 minutes. While it’s brewing, I add ¼ cup of half and half to two large mugs, heat both of them for 30 seconds in the microwave, then use an electric frother to froth the cream so the foam covers the bottom 2 inches of each mug. Then I carefully pour the freshly brewed coffee over the frothed cream, allowing the foam to rise and swell about ½ inch above the lip of the mug. 

Bingo. Perfect coffee every time.

Why? Because I have a routine, a regular course of procedure, that produces predictably good results every time. Resolutions don’t produce results. Routines do.

Having goals is great. But having good routines is better. In fact, you’re not going to achieve your long-term goals without addressing your routines. Because here’s the sobering truth about routines, about habits. Some of them are good. And some of them are bad. Some of them serve us well. Others, not so much. But all of our routines have created the results we’re experiencing in our lives.

  • Our fitness level.
  • Our intellectual development.
  • Our financial health.
  • Our marriage.
  • Our career.
  • Our friendships.
  • Our spiritual growth.

You get the picture. The list goes on and on. Our quality of life and the results produced are the direct result of our routines. Yes, I realize there are exceptions here, things that happen to us, things that are out of our control. But for the sake of making progress, I want us to focus on the things that are in our control. Our routines.

Jesus had routines

Jesus had routines in his lifetime, habits, a regular course of procedure. In Scripture they’re typically described as his “customs.” The Greek word used is “etho” which means to be “used by habit or convention.” It’s where we get the word ethos. 

In Luke 4:16, we read about a routine in his spiritual, intellectual and relational life. Synagogue. Scripture says, “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.” There’s that word, etho. He went to synagogue on the Sabbath “by habit or convention.” The routine of gathering, instruction, worship.

In Luke 5:16, we read about another of Jesus’ routines. “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” The routine of solitude and prayer.

In Mark 10:1 we read about a routine in his work, his vocation, his calling. “Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.” A routine of teaching. And again in Luke 21:37-38, “Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives…” Each day, each evening. A routine of work and rest.

By the way, in my research on the routines of Jesus, I was struck by how many of them were directly related to his spiritual life. Gathering. Instruction. Worship. Solitude. Prayer. Teaching. No wonder he had such a vibrant spiritual life! He was devoted to the Father and his routines demonstrated that devotion. (I have no idea about his coffee life though. Sad.)

You and I have routines as well. Life habits. Some of them are good. Some of them are killing us. (Literally.) 

  • My physical health is directly related to my routines about eating, drinking, exercising, sleeping. Some of them are good. Some of them need to change. 
  • My financial health is a direct result of my routines associated with earning, spending, saving, investing, debt, and giving. Some of them are good. Some of them need to change. 
  • The quality of my relationships is directly related to my routines. My marriage, my parenting, my friendships. Routines. Some of them are good. Some of them need to change.
  • My spiritual life? Same. Some of my routines are good. Some of them need to change.

So as we think about making progress this year, we have to look openly and honestly at our routines, our habits. We need to assess which of them are serving us well, are helping us become the best version of ourselves by God’s design. And we need to identify which habits are not serving us well, that are actually depleting us, sapping us of energy, getting us off mission, and diminishing our quality of life.

So first, identify and assess your routines. Which ones are good, which ones are bad? Helpful or harmful? (Some may be perceived as neutral, and that’s fine for now.) Then begin the process of making small, incremental changes in both realms, good routines and bad. Think tiny habits. We’ll talk more about that next week.

In the meantime, remember: Goals are great. But routines are better!

All Scripture is from the New International Version of the Bible (NIV)