If you ever get the chance to talk with web designers who worked during the turn of the millennium, mention the phrase “the Browser Wars”. Then prepare yourself for a whole lot of groans, eye rolls, and war stories starting with “So, I had this client who wanted…”
Back then the web browsers – of which there were a lot – each had their own particular method for interpreting the code that created the web pages. It was an ugly and frustrating process, and it only ended when the WorldWide Web Consortium – basically the equivalent of the UN, only more effective – created a standard by which the browsers and developers could agree.
Part of that standard was the creation of “Cascading Style Sheets”. The idea was that there would be an “ideal” version of your web page that looked exactly the way you wanted it. In the best-case scenario, your audience was looking at your website on a big monitor with all the same colors and fonts and your message would definitely go through.
But what if they’re on an iPad?
That’s where the “cascading style” starts. The savvy web designer has built in fallback code that makes the site look good on your iPad, too. Or on the iPhone. Or on an older web browser that might not have updated plug-ins. Or for someone who’s using a text-to-speech app.
Each step away from that “ideal” situation degrades gracefully, at the very least keeping the content – the purpose of the site – still useable by the consumer.
Applying Graceful Degradation to Your Morning Routine
You hear it over and over again from personal development blogs: Successful People use morning routines. There are entire blogs devoted to it (I’ve even been featured on one). It’s great when you can maintain a streak of morning routines, and feel that your whole day starts out more balanced.
There’s one problem: life. Alarms don’t go off, kids get sick, you get sick, your partner needs a ride to work – you name it, there’s a whole lot of things that can throw off your morning routine.
Let’s reframe that, though: there are a whole lot of things that can throw off your perfect morning routine. Sometimes you don’t wake up with the latest version of Operating System You-Point-Oh. Sometimes it’s more like you’re waking up with Operating System You Vista (side note: that’s a computer joke. The Windows Vista OS was notoriously bad). You just don’t have the capability to run the program that you created for yourself back when you were feeling optimistic.
So instead, you gracefully degrade. You have a fallback position that isn’t the ideal morning routine, but still maintains the intent and even some of the basic functionality of it.
Examples of Cascading Style Habits
This morning was a good example. On really good mornings, I start the day with a 1/2 hour Yin Yoga routine with Kassandra. It’s slow, it’s progressive, and really good for my body and a nice, easy wake-up.
But it’s a frakkin’ half-hour.
If I don’t have time for that, I do a different routine – a fifteen minute “Super Hero” vinyasa adapted from my other favorite yoga teacher, Adriene. It’s more energetic and more difficult – involving some balance poses and a lot of chaturanga dandasana (aka, “push-up pose”).
And there are some mornings when I don’t really have the motivation even for that. When all I want to do is stay in bed until the nagging get up and be productive voice won’t let me anymore, and then to shut it up with the distractions of social media. There’s a real risk of wasting almost an entire morning down the rabbit hole of Twitter if I don’t manage to get into my morning routine.
If all else fails, I do the Five Pillars five times. That’s not really yoga, and frankly the history is a little suspect – but it is simple. It requires minimal counting of reps. It doesn’t require any meditative or mindfulness type energy. It is basically the equivalent of morning calisthenics in the military.
And that I can do. I did seven reps this morning, since I was a motivated underachiever, and it kept me from the Gravy Hose and focused my morning.
Create Your Own Cascading Style
What’s that habit that you’ve been trying to sustain? Even if you’ve been doing great with it so far, it might be worth thinking about how you can maintain the purpose of the habit even when you’re not in the ideal situation:
- If you can’t meditate one morning, focus on breathing and being present any time you’re waiting at a traffic light.
- If you can’t write the 1000 words for your novel, commit to writing one sentence – even if it’s only in your head.
- If you can’t do your full work out, go into the bathroom and do a couple of isometric pushes against the wall, maybe a lunge or squat. Pick an arbitrary number (Pro tip: you can say “Hey, Siri, give me a random number between 1 and 10” and you’ll have your number of reps)
These are not replacements for your habits. That’s a different technique that we’ll talk about next week, called Progressive Enhancement. No, this is designed to help you keep from “breaking the chain” and making allowances for the fact that our practices need to reflect reality, not the perfectionist fantasies of our over-achieving imaginations.
If you have a cascading style habit already, tell me about it!