So, I’ll let you in on a little secret about me: I love rituals. They make me feel calm, grounded and bring me instantly back to my center. Plain and simple. I also love them because once one becomes ingrained in my life, it’s one less decision I have to make in my day. Rituals mean different things to different people, but I like to think of them simply as repeated actions that have a lasting impact on my well-being, like taking a yoga class. For some of you, this type of ritual could include going to the gym, taking voice lessons, or reading the news at the same time every morning with your coffee or tea.
Now, I love checking things off my to-do list with the best of them, but the things that end up on that list are usually one-time tasks, which I like to call Completions. These are immediate actions that, once we take them, aren’t really thought about again, like calling my bank to ask about setting up a new savings account, or picking up my sister at the airport. Both Rituals and Completions involve taking action toward getting what you want. However, rituals tend to be more powerful when implemented because they can have a long-term, life-changing impact. So, while they may require a more serious commitment on your part to initiate, if you can stay committed to repeating an action long enough, it will become a habit, or in other words, a given.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xrJaN-OD1ig]There are certain rituals in my life that have stuck since the beginning, like brushing my teeth before going to bed — that’s a no-brainer (and, if you do like the Muppets do, it's FUN!). And then there are other rituals that I have a more complicated relationship with, like meditation. Now, I’m a firm believer in meditation and I’ve done it long enough to know its benefits. But, if I’m being really honest (which I believe is an essential part of my job as a coach, even in my blogs — especially in my blogs!), then it’s time to confess — I’ve been struggling with my meditation practice lately. I just don’t want to do it. But guess what? It doesn’t matter! My body is already doing it before my mind has a chance to talk me out of it. That’s the beauty of long-term rituals: I do them regardless of the mood I’m in. In this case, meditation is non-negotiable because it’s a built-in ritual and I know it’s good for me in the long run, regardless of whether or not I want to do it on a given day. I simply do it, rain or shine, good mood or bad, light or busy schedule.
Norman Mailer, who had a strict writing regimen, highlighted the value of rituals when he said, “Over the years, I’ve found one rule. It is the only one I give on those occasions when I talk about writing. A simple rule. If you tell yourself you are going to be at your desk tomorrow, you are by that declaration asking your unconscious to prepare the material. You are, in effect, contracting to pick up such valuables at a given time. Count on me, you are saying to a few forces below, I will be there to write.” An invaluable lesson to not only all of you writers out there (who undoubtedly know the necessity of writing rituals), but to everyone else who wants to affect change in their life.
So, as you continue with your week, I challenge you to look more closely at the rituals in your life that are working for you. What about them works? Do they involve other people? Are they critical to your health? What compels you to show up time and again for yourself? And what’s one NEW ritual that you’re ready to commit to beginning? Think about what your needs are and make sure you’re clear about what the commitment entails before you blindly commit. Make it count.
I’d love to hear your answers to these questions, so feel free to share in the comments below. There’s a lot we can learn from each other about what makes certain types of rituals stick, so don’t be shy! And be sure look out for Part 2 of this week’s blog focus on rituals…I’m going to share some great stuff with you, including one of my favorite grounding rituals!