We all have daily routines. Most are variations on the same theme … roll out of bed, shower, personal grooming, get dressed, coffee and breakfast over the morning paper, check email, off to work we go.
Generally, we give little thought to our routines because they become so automatic. Some would say that’s actually a good thing because it saves time and energy and collectively they do manage to get us from point A to point B, and maybe most of the time that’s good enough.
But if you wake up one morning and realize your routine has become a rut, or that you simply want to improve the quality of your life experience, then it’s time for a change.
If you want life to change, you have to change. If you want life to get better, you have to get better. ~Anthony Robbins
In my last post, I talked about personal standards, and how rituals serve to help us create positive change. To understand the role rituals play we first need to clarify the difference between routines and rituals.
A habit is a tendency or regular practice that is carried out without conscious awareness. The various routines you follow each day are a series of habits that have a specific end result. The steps I outlined above represent a series of habits that combine to create your morning routine with the purpose of getting you up and out the door in the morning to start your day.
A ritual is also a series of actions repeatedly performed. The difference is that they are performed with 100% awareness and focus. So turning a routine into a ritual requires adding the elements of deliberate intention and mindfulness.
Calming rituals are the most common and easiest place to begin experimenting. When carried out in the morning calming rituals set the tone for the day ahead and when practiced in the evening they sooth frayed nerves and help to relax away stress.
These are the types of rituals that typically come to mind when we think of self-care.
A few examples include:
- Yoga or Tai Chi
So, for example, a morning ritual might include meditating for 15 or 20 minutes and then sitting outside and with a soothing cup of tea while you read or simply enjoy nature.
Another type of morning ritual could be something to motivate you and get the blood pumping for the day.
You may recognize Lisa Nichols’ name from the movie and book, The Secret. She went from being a single mother from South Central L.A. with just $20 to her name, struggling to get by and raise her son, to authoring seven bestselling books and having the distinction of being the second African-American woman to take a business public.
Lisa’s morning ritual begins with the following mantra.
- Lisa, I am proud of you because >>> List 7 things
- Lisa, Forgive >>> List 7 things
- Lisa, I am committed to >>> List 7 things
Don’t try to overhaul your life overnight. Instead, focus on making one small change at a time. Over time, those small changes will add up to big transformation! ~Author Unknown
Other Types of Rituals
Any habit or activity that you do on a regular basis can be turned into a ritual to improve the quality of your life.
Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg set a standard that she would always be home by 6pm to have dinner with her children. When she first joined Facebook it was awkward and she felt guilty leaving before dark, but she crafted an end of the workday ritual that allowed her to meet that standard.
Not everyone has the ability to make their own hours, but there are other areas where you do have control.
- Develop rituals for commuting to and from work – for example instead of news or music listen to audio books.
- Develop rituals for preparing appointments and meetings to save time and effort.
- Develop rituals for striving to achieve goals. When I worked in sales my ritual was to achieve my daily sales goal and then “just one more.” Each day instead of starting over with the daily sales quota, I’d build on the previous day’s numbers with my “just one more” mantra. I even had a cup made with that saying on it that always set on my desk! It was that ritual that helped me regularly achieve monthly incentive bonuses.
- Develop rituals for lunch breaks. Instead of eating and gossiping with your colleagues you might go for a walk in the fresh air or read a self-help book.
Allowing ourselves to enjoy life in all its details and attending to what gives us the greatest happiness can elevate even mundane tasks, refreshing our mind and spirit. ~Alexandra Stoddard
Even something as simple as preparing a meal can be turned into a joyful ritual, and one of my favorites is cooking a recipe from scratch on Sundays.
My ritual begins by selecting the recipe and then heading out to shop for the freshest ingredients. The vegetables and herbs are all so beautiful and fragrant, I love the entire creative process and the wonderful smells that permeate the house.
And to add to the atmosphere while cooking I’ll play music that goes with the theme of the meal. For example, last weekend I made lasagna (yes, even the noodles!) while listening to the operatic singing group, the 3 Tenors.
The fact that this is a weekly rather than daily ritual doesn’t lessen the impact for me, in fact, if anything I look forward to it even more by the time the weekend rolls around.
Where to Begin
The place to begin is with your current standards. Identify an area in your life where your actions aren’t reflecting your values or the level standards you’d like to achieve for yourself.
Because it is so important to your health and well-being, if you struggle to make time for your emotional and physical needs, then I urge you to use this your starting point by making self-care a lifestyle choice rather than a series of quick fixes.
What’s your story? Do you have a favorite ritual that has made a positive difference in your life?
More reading …
Let today be the day you give up who you’ve been for who you can become.
About Marquita Herald
Marquita is an author, resilience coach and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies and (especially) a dog named Lucy.
She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.
To learn more about Marquita and the mission of Emotionally Resilient Living click “here“.