The Power of Rituals
As we journey through this life, we discover there are things that we hold dear and things we are indifferent to. Family, friends, health and a feeling of mattering come to mind as those we cherish. Others just fall under the “Other” category and we try hard to make sure we focus on the former more than the latter. We try to create habits or rituals that allow us to make the most of our time here and stay focused on what we’re trying to accomplish during our all too short stay on planet earth. Often, in spite of our best intentions, the “Other” stuff creeps into our lives and muddies the water of intention. We spend time thinking about things that don’t really matter to us (is Fred at work ever going to shut up about his divorce?) and we lose an increasing amount of our finite energy on these things.
Once we take some time to step back from them, we see where we’ve strayed. If we’re mindful, we will create rituals to deal with these distractions. For instance, learning how to avoid Fred at work altogether or conversation tactics to steer him away from his old patterns come to mind. If we have success with a tactic or practice we add it to our mental toolbox. This is what I call installing the ritual.
How Rituals Help You
It would seem very obvious to me that anything that allows us to stay focused on our primary goals could be nothing but good. We accomplish two main priorities at a time. We learn how to avoid or deal with the negative distractions while replacing them with a positive direction. Of course, all rituals are not as specific as the conversation reframing tactic I mention here. Others are much less specific but can be just as powerful. For instance, I have a nightly yoga/stretching/prayer ritual that I believe prepares me well for bed. (Note from Jeff: I will be glad to outline this process in a future post for all those interested. Just let me know by commenting below.) It helps me relax and get rid of the mental noise from the day. As somebody who has had issues with anxiety, this is a perfect pre-bedtime ritual. Any ritual you create to help you get rid of the negative while reinforcing the positive is at least immediately helpful and desirable. Regular exercise, whatever that is for you, comes to mind as one of those possible rituals.
When A Ritual Hurts You
I mentioned before the concept of mental toolbox. Imagine the rituals you create filling your toolbox over time. How long do you think it will take you to have so many “tools” that you can’t find or use any of them? Or worse, you have so many that are very similar that it’s like having five hammers of the same size and weight that only differ in the handle finish. Can you see how this can create its own set of problems?
We all have met somebody who, if they already aren’t being run by their rituals, are well on their way to it. They have a rule or process for EVERYTHING they do. Many are contradictory and the only reason they don’t realize it is just because of chronology. They don’t need their writing ritual before bed which is good because that ritual involves ingesting maximum amounts of caffeine. Caffeine has been proven lately to have a much longer half-life in our bodies than previously thought. Do you see the conflict?
Take The One Day Ritual Test
For one day, each time you find yourself invoking a ritual ask yourself these questions:
- Where did I get this rule? Do I even remember?
- Does this ritual serve me or am I serving it? Does it help me move forward?
- Does this ritual conflict with any other ritual or rituals?
If you’ll ask yourself these questions I think you’ll be amazed that you honestly don’t know where many of them came from. You almost certainly will spot conflicts. You don’t have to be wound up tightly like a spring to have this happen either. Don’t judge it. Just notice and record it as best you can. If all you get out of this exercise is that you are more mindful of your processes and the rules behind them then I will feel my job here is done. Just don’t be surprised if you uncover a lot more than you expected to.
Editing Your Rituals
Each time you come up with a ritual or rule that seems contradictory or unclear, make a mark next to it on your list.When you’re away from your work and projects, take a look at that list and see if you can’t just eliminate one or the other (or both) from your list. If you feel that will leave a void then spend some more time mindfully crafting another that can replace it/them. Have fun with this and by all means DON’T make if feel like another ritual to install. If you want to make a monthly habit, for instance, of reviewing your rituals, I’m all for it. I’m constantly questioning the way I work because I know my results are not what I desire YET. There’s always room for improvement in my process list.
Tell Me About Your Discoveries
I’ll be posting a point by point breakdown and analysis of my daily rituals to let you know what I’ve learned from this. I would love it if you would do the same in the comments for me. Just two or three will do. Also, if you know somebody that would benefit from this article please share it using the buttons below. I look forward to hearing your discoveries!