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I’ve never been a big routine guy; I would much rather spend my days doing exactly what I want when I want, and not doing anything I don’t actually want to do.

But I’ve discovered that this kind of living doesn’t add up to much over time; sure, I’ve had fits and starts, I’ve put together a number of very cool projects and gained quite a bit of good life experience – but at 45 years old, I found myself looking around and realizing I hadn’t built anything solid.

Enter routines!

It started with a morning routine. I decided to begin waking up at 4:30 to get a jump on my day before my wife and children got up; I started walking and having a conversation with myself, claiming that couple of hours in the early morning for myself.

The immediate result was extremely satisfying; I had the experience from day one that getting up early and tending to my innermost needs led to a state of mind throughout the day that made it easier and more joyful to be of service to my family. No longer did I feel like I was scrambling to find time for myself.

After a few weeks, I realized that the morning routine had created an anchor into a routine that could now be built upon; I realized that I could chart a course through a day that would contain all of the elements of an exquisite and highly fulfilling life – and that that day could be repeated over and over indefinitely, small steps adding up to great results.

Again, the results were immediate and profoundly satisfying; the very first day that I became aware of the possibility of expansion, I wrote out a model of what I thought an ideal routine might be, and found it exceedingly easy to fulfill on every single one of the small action items that I identified would lead over time to great results. I celebrated at the end of that day, listing all of the things that I had done, acknowledging each one as a step toward a grand vision for my life, my home, my physical health and well-being, my marriage, my children, my professional life, my creative life… Every aspect was covered.

Since beginning this process of creating routines that give my days substance and meaning, I find myself working with more joy and more lightness that I ever experienced making a grand push to accomplish some pet vision or project that I thought would make my life complete in a short period of time.

I recognize now that life is a marathon, not a series of sprints, and I am now in the process of conditioning my mind, body, and spirit for the long-haul.