Routines Are Not Routine

It’s not the will to win that matters – everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.”  Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant
Have you ever noticed the routines that golf professionals go through as they get ready to make a shot?  There are a number of common steps that most pros will perform. Checking with the caddy for distance to the hole, paying attention to current wind speed, and identifying hazards, are some of these elements.

While steps in these routines are common among the pros, each individual’s approach is unique, often developed over many years. Shared elements, like stepping up to the ball and lining up the golfer’s feet, are slightly different for each pro.

The actual swing or shot that causes the ball to move toward the green takes seconds at most to accomplish. All the preparation, including calculating the distance and taking practice swings, takes far more time than the actual execution of the shot. In golf, you might say that what is going on in the thinking and preparation aspect of the game far exceeds the actual execution portion.

If you look at any sport, you will see that all the professionals have routines, a consistent and regular way of approaching their game. Many swear by their customs. They would not even think about the possibility of not doing them. They hold them sacred.  We, as spectators and fans, expect them to be great – routines are part of the package, an expected part of their job. We anticipate that the pros will operate at their best for each swing, kick, pass or snap.  After all, they are professionals, right?  Yes, they are.

You, the reader, are also a professional.   In your job or role, you are expected by others to be your best. Someone is counting on you. In what you do each day, you are the pro. This applies to the person who sweeps floors, students in class, as well as the owner of a company and those people enjoying retirement. My definition of a professional is someone who gets paid. Even students are paid, if you consider their provisions of housing and food.  And the retired person is collecting Social Security benefits and possibly other retirement checks.  We are all paid professionals.

As one professional to another, I have some questions:  Do you have routines for the important things you do each day? Do you practice before you engage? Do you ever role-play before an actual event?  Do you expect the best from yourself, and nothing less? Are you in the game as the pro that you can and should be?

Does it make any sense to go to work each day, performing the same tasks without any rehearsal? For those things you do on a consistent, regular basis, what is your routine?  Do you take a ‘practice swing’ for tasks that you perform that matter to the company and to your own life?

Have you ever watched the golf pro who goes to the practice range immediately after the day’s performance in a tournament? Have you read about the daily hours of practice required to be a concert pianist? An Olympic champion does not show up for the contest without years of preparation and training. We may never qualify nor intend to do any of these jobs. But, is there something of value to learn from all of these disciplined and committed professionals? I think so.

As a professional speaker, I practice my speeches in front of the mirror, in front of my wife and at Toastmasters. I will practice some parts of a speech, in the form of a few sentences, dozens of times. I will say these words over and over until they are close to perfect. Today I will share a message, one that I have delivered and practiced many times, to a new audience.  That same speech that the audience loves and applauds is the one I will practice again later today and tomorrow.  You expect me to be a pro when I deliver a presentation. When I am not in front of you, I do what other pros do – I practice.  I practice before and after the event, just like golf professionals.

What are you doing in the area of preparation and planning?  Are you happy with your performance?  Can you get better?  Is it time to look at your routines? What about the parts of a day that all of us as professionals have in common?   One I consider to be at the top of my list in importance is how I greet the day.

Does it make sense that the first part of our day – what we do during those first few hours or minutes – might make a difference in how the day turns out? I know this to be so. I have practiced daily routines for all of my adult life and have made a special effort in the early morning elements. Over the years, these routines have changed due to varying goals, challenges and opportunities. But, just like the golf pros, there are common steps we all encounter each day and how we handle them is also unique to each person.

My first activities each day are prayer and reflection. I do not start a day without this quiet, private time.  I have done this for so long with great effect that I would not know how to start my day otherwise.  I have a routine for my exercise, how and when I do it.  I have a list of music for each day of the week and I play one group of songs during exercise and another group during my shower.  These early morning routines set my day in motion. They create a positive environment. By 8:00am, I am usually full of excitement and passion for the chance at another day! To be the pro that I was always meant to be. What’s it like after the first hour of your day?

When stuff happens, I have a routine for that as well. I will recall some of the positive things people have told me, verbally and in writing. I also remember the times when my back has been to the wall and I still overcame the challenge and difficulty. I think back to some of my past significant victories. And always, I rely on my faith to pull me through. These are my routines and they are very connected to my success in life.  And success is simply being and becoming the best at what I am meant to be and do in life. There is nothing routine about success, but the journey to get there is full of routines.

Every significant accomplishment in your life will always be connected to your attitude, which can be developed by choice.  You can choose to have a better attitude through your ‘practice swings,’ your routines. How you start the day and how you are prepared to overcome the challenges of the day are connected to your attitude and all the habits and practices you have created to support it.   The most important routines in my day are all related to my attitude.

What is your attitude routine? Do you have one? Do you engage it every single day? Is it time to look at developing some ‘attitude practice swings’ to get your day started right?

What you do every single day impacts your success. Do you still have room to become better? Is it time to check your back swing?  Are you ready to look at your routines?

Create Positive Attitude Routines.

Practice Daily to Win.

Start the Day with Great Habits.

I am a professional – being and becoming the best.