In an effort to get a bit more exercise into my day, I’ve been getting up earlier and walking for the last six months or so. I leave the house a few minutes before 6 a.m., walk up Third Street, take a lap around the perimeter of Schiller Park, and head back home in time to get ready for the work day.
I’ve noticed that, on my little pre-dawn jaunt, I see the same people, at about the same time, in about the same place. The quick-walking bearded guy wearing a Kansas City Royals cap, shoulders hunched and hands in his pockets, heading down Third to the Starbucks. The guy smoking his morning cigarette next to the church. The two women walking in the street wearing colorful, coordinated workout outfits. The seemingly inexhaustible guy running around the park with his two border collies that always move to the other side of the sidewalk as I approach. The two joggers carrying on an animated conversation.
I freely concede that I’m a creature of habit. When it comes to things like exercise, I like getting into a routine and then following it. I could mix things up and, say, walk down Mohawk rather than Third, or really get radical and walk in the opposite direction — but I would never do that. I like taking the turn at the Starbucks, seeing whether there’s been any progress on the church repairs, and checking out the people pounding away on the treadmills at Snap Fitness. And, from my experience seeing the same people in about the same place at about the same time, I’m not alone in my creature of habit status.
If you google “creatures of habit,” you’ll find a number of articles about how people can break their habits, and the positives that can flow from trying something new. I’m sure that’s true, but I’m here to say that habits can have their value, too. There’s a certain comfort in the sameness, a zen-like tranquillity in the known and the familiar, and a sense that a new day must be starting because I’m rounding the third corner on my way around the park and that guy on the bike is wheeling by, just like clockwork.
Routines can have their value.