Yesterday I wrote about routine and how it can help you to move forward towards your goals instead of floundering through the day without accomplishing anything. In addition to routine, or action arising from convention or habit, ritual can plan a big part in your success.
Merriam-Webster defines Ritual simply:
Something always done in a particular situation and in the same way each time.
Always doing something in a particular situation is very similar to routine. I brush my teeth morning and night and always in the same place, the bathroom. It doesn’t matter if I’m traveling or at home, the ritual of brushing my teeth happens in the bathroom morning and night.
Brushing my teeth also happens the same way each time. I put the toothpaste on the brush the same way, in the same amount. I follow the same pattern while brushing. I don’t have to think about it. I don’t have to plan for it. I’ve been doing it for so long my mind if free to think about other things while I do it. This is pretty much the only multi-tasking that I’m able to do well.
The importance of ritual is two-fold:
- Always doing something in a particular situation creates habit.
- Always doing it the same way frees your mind from the mundane to focus on more important things.
Used mindfully ritual alone is a great time and energy saver. Combining routine and ritual can make for automatic success, or automatic mediocrity. A routine of rituals where you complete tasks and create action will feel like automatic success. A routine of rituals where you look for entertainment and non-action will keep you where you are and you will be automatically mediocre.
What do I mean by used mindfully? How many times have you gotten into the car at a specific time and started heading to the store or school automatically even though your actual destination was the opposite direction? Being mindful is actively understanding the ritual you are about to begin so it is executed in a useful manner. Creating a ritualized habit of watching TV all day won’t build a business or make you a better parent. So be mindful of the rituals and habits you create.
Another powerful aspect of rituals is that they become triggers that set your day up for success. Weather it is laying out the clothes you exercise in or putting those exercise clothes on as soon as you get out of bed. Both of those rituals lead to you making sure you get your exercise in for the day. I’ve come to enjoy the little things like this that I do. My coffee making in the morning, updating my to do list in the evening, and reading a few pages of some book before I go to sleep are all rituals that I’ve added to my day that I enjoy. They are also triggers to accomplish the things I want to:
- Making coffee leads me to review and plan my day.
- Updating my to do list clears my mind for the evening so I can be present with my family.
- Reading a few pages prepares me for a good night’s sleep.
Think about the things you do throughout the day that could be turned into a ritual. Weather it’s sitting down at your desk first thing in the AM to write, or making a cup of tea and staring off into the distance as a little meditation. Ritual is something that should improve your day and free up your mind to focus on important things.
What are your rituals? I’d like to hear about them in the comments.