Photo by: rolbroute
*We are creatures of habit. Routine behaviors guide our days without our awareness. They are the most powerful forces in our lives. To demonstrate the power of routine behaviors to yourself, try switching your watch to your other arm. How does it feel?
*If you have been trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle, but have been finding it difficult to find the time, energy, motivation, etc. it may be that you already have a surplus of routine behaviors crowding out your new program. For greater success when adopting a new stretching, eating, or exercise regimen, incorporate a small ritual into the process.
* Rituals are patterns of behavior that are easy to accomplish. After enough regular practice, they nearly become unconscious, but their importance lies in the fact that they are catalysts for bigger efforts.
*The other day, I came across Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. Ms. Tharp is exceptional in her ability to recognize and explain behaviors that facilitate creativity. Early in the book, she discusses the importance of rituals, as a call to action. Ms. Tharp’s morning ritual: wake up, get dressed, step outside, hail a taxi, ask the driver to take her to the gym. Once she has told the driver where to go, the ritual is complete and she is on track for her workout. The workout itself is not the ritual, it is the follow-on action.
Photo by: .nele
*Joint mobility exercises are my morning ritual. Doing these exercises clears my head, gets me focused on moving my body, and sets me up for the 100 push ups that follow. Without the initial joint mobility ritual, excuses and distractions make it easy to skip the more strenuous push ups.
*I also have micro-rituals. When I am lifting weights, before starting a set, I take three deep slow breaths, in through the nose out through the mouth, followed by three quick breaths, using only my mouth. My first lift starts, as I force the last exhalation through pursed lips. This little ritual preps my mind for concentration, focuses my body for exertion, and sets the timing of the lift.
*For me, these rituals have a calming effect. Prior to initiating the ritual, accomplishing the follow on action is an anxious desire, subject to being derailed by distractions, other interests, or plain old chickening out. Once the ritual is started, tension dissipates and the follow on action becomes a foregone conclusion.
*Another ritual worth experimenting with is taking a few moments in the morning to visualize your day and to think about being successful with your most important project. Taking a few moments to visualize success with a project is not doing the project, but it sets you up for pursuing the follow-on action. At the end of my work day, I purposely brainstorm projects or action steps that I will need to work on the next day. This ritual insures continuity, from day to day. More importantly, this ritual disengages me from work (once an idea is written down, I can forget about it until the next day) and preps me for the follow-on action of engaging my home / personal life.
* If you want to make positive changes in your routines, but are having difficulty finding the time, energy, or focus necessary, then develop a little ritual to help make the follow-on behavior inevitable, rather than overwhelming. A warm cup of tea before stretching, visualizing a successful lift, or putting on your favorite apron before cooking, are examples of little things that move you toward bigger projects, help you focus, and reduce your anxiety. Cherish your rituals, they are the gateway to consistent positive routines.
*Rituals can also be quite humorous. For example, before I get out of bed, I prefer for the numbers on the digital clock to add up to 13 or 9. 11 is OK too, but I prefer 13 and 9. So, don’t be shy, post a few of your more unusual rituals in the comments section.