I'm big on metaphors. Anyone who coaches with me knows this. There's something about an image — a visual representation — that just locks in an idea for me. Even better, I've found that the perfect metaphor can resonate universally; it's a powerful tool that can connect a vast amount of people in a very simply way. This proved true just recently in a group coaching session at One on One — I threw out the idea that navigating a career in this business is a lot like being on a roller coaster, and the entire room gave a collective sigh and emphatic "YES!"
It’s no exaggeration to say that as awesome as the holidays are, they come with a certain amount of pitfalls. Diets are in jeopardy, curfews are blown, and budgets are pushed beyond their limits. It just goes with the territory, and we all seem to understand the rules by now. But, one thing that seems to happen every December that can have an averse effect on your life and career is overextending yourself or, as I like to call it, developing “Yes Man Syndrome.”
Are you the master of starting lots of projects? Do you choose to do other tasks that seem easier when you know there's something else you really should be doing with your time? Let's face it, we can be experts at getting everything done but the most important task at hand — that's usually the one that hangs over us for days, weeks, sometimes even months before we get started. And the longer it festers, the longer we feel like ____ (I was gonna say poop, but you go ahead and fill in the blank).
On a recent coaching call, one of my clients said, “I just spend so much time waiting in this business — it’s exhausting!” and the sentiment really resonated with me. In her case, she was at an industry meet-and-greet and she waited about two hours, watching other actors get up and do their sides, before it was her turn to perform for the casting director, after which she went home and waited even longerthe following day to find out if she got an audition. She said to me, “I’m getting so tired of waiting around to be seen.” It got me thinking: if every actor reading this listed in the comments how many hours they’ve spent waiting (on set, in line at auditions, after a meeting for the phone to ring, for that casting director, agent, manager, producer, writer, etc., to choose them…you get the idea), I’ll bet it would make your eyes pop out of your head Looney Tunes style.
My last blog post on rituals seemed to strike a chord with a lot of you, which doesn’t surprise me in the least. Whenever I introduce the idea to clients of mine, they almost universally take to it with much enthusiasm. I think that part of the reason for this is that rituals are simple in concept, yet hold great resonance when applied to your life. What’s not to love?
As a follow-up, I want to share with you a grounding ritual that I used to give as an assignment in one of my classes. Let me tell you, it was always a big hit. Again, on its surface, it doesn’t seem like much (the basis of it is a walk around the block), but the shift in focus that it creates tends to surprise people. It’s something that I still do on a regular basis when I need to ground myself, and I’d love for everyone reading this to give it a try and see what happens.
So, to do this, pretend that you’ve arrived at my virtual classroom, and on the chalkboard are the following instructions for a silent walking meditation. If you’re able to do this right now, go for it. If you’re reading this while you’re busy doing something else, or you simply don’t have 10 minutes to spare right now, I suggest you print out this blog post and find 10 minutes in the next day to give it a go. In either case, just give it a try – I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.
GROUNDING RITUAL: SILENT WALKING MEDITATION
- Follow these instructions IN SILENCE…
- You are going to walk around the block in your own time TWICE.
- For the first lap around the block, I want you to purposely think about whatever is on your mind. Let the chatter and the voices run free and rant during the first lap around the block.
- For the second lap, I want you to let go of ALL thoughts and be as present as possible. Check in with all of your senses—notice everything around you: the sounds, smells, sights, even touch a building or notice if someone brushes past you. Make sure you take at least 10 conscious breaths during this second lap. Stay present and silent as you make your way back inside.
- Get out a pen and paper and free write about what you experienced. Use the following questions to get started: a. What was the difference for you between the two laps around the block? b. What did you find challenging? c. What did you enjoy? d. How did you like this ritual? e. What did you learn?
Leave a comment on this blog sharing any or all of your answers to the questions above. I can’t wait to hear about your experience with this ritual. Have fun!
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!