Yes! It’s Called A RITUAL. Here’s How It Works.
When there is so much craziness in the world, what is the point of reading (or writing) articles on effective habits and routines? Simple–we need our personal peace and effectiveness more than ever! Having better habits helps us be more resilient and effective in adversity–and it’s more fun, too!
In my last “habits of greatness” blog post, I pointed out that unconscious undesired behaviors can get in the way of creating empowering habits and routines. You can’t be “Habit Stacking” unless you stop “Habit Slacking.”
In this blog post I’m going to share an incredibly powerful technique for getting off your rear end and getting started. It’s called creating a ritual.
First, Here Are The Basics Of How To Create A Lasting Habit
The science of effective habit creation is pretty clear. To create an awesome new habit:
- Identify a habit that you want to make a priority.
- Made sure this habit lined up with your life goals.
- Decide where the habit would go in your day and “stack” it on an existing habit.
- Make it easy by setting up your environment in a helpful way.
- And curtail any existing, unwanted, habit currently occupying the new habit’s “niche” of time, place and trigger.
Now, Here’s An Example Of These Concepts IN ACTION
Before we get to rituals, let’s look at how these concepts work in real life:
- You really want to practice guitar (habit).
- You want to play at family holidays, make friends jamming with others, and enjoy progressing in this amazing hobby, so practicing guitar is absolutely aligned with who and what you want to be (life alignment)!
- You’ve decided to play guitar first thing in the morning, right after you make your coffee (habit stacking).
- You’ve set up your guitar stand (make it easy) in the kitchen right next to the coffee machine and your guitar notebook is on the table (make it easy some more).
- And since you know that “the Instagram” is a competing morning habit, you plug your phone into the bathroom outlet each night, resulting in better sleep and an ability to focus on guitar–and you’re not going to unplug it until after your guitar practice is done (eradicting competing habits).
Wow! You’re loaded for success. And I am betting that you’re going to do great!
But I have a confession to make. Sometimes I’ve been in an awesome situation like the one above, and I still managed not to get started.
Newton’s First Law Of Motion–And You And Me
As humans, we are part of the physical and chemical universe, so maybe it makes sense that the laws of science seem to explain what it feels like sometimes right before we begin something.
Newton’s First Law Of Motion: An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion unless acted on by an outside force.
That seems to describe exactly how I feel before I get started–and how much momentum I feel once I do get started! That’s where the incredible power of rituals come in–super simple and small routines that get us started.
Turbocharge Your New Habit With A Ritual
You see, it’s hard to do something general, like “be a better person” or “play guitar”. And even something kinda specific, like “practice guitar at the kitchen table with my morning coffee” can be hard to get started if you don’t know how to start. Will you play a song? Tune your guitar? Look up songs on the internet? Watch inspirational performances on the internet? Watch videos of Minecraft on the internet? Say “Oh no! It’s lunch time, and I still haven’t practiced guitar!”
That’s why having a “ritual” is really important. A ritual in this sense is a very precise behavior to start your practice.
For example, instead of:
Make Coffee ⇒⇒⇒ Play Guitar For 15 Minutes (too general)
It might be:
Make Coffee ⇒⇒⇒ Put coffee on the table. Pick up your guitar and put it on your lap. Take a deep breath, smile and wiggle your fingers, and then play all the open major chords you know in alphabetical order starting with an “A” chord. Smile with gratitude that you have hands that can move and the health to sit up and take your first drink of coffee. It feels good to play guitar! Open your notebook and start playing an easy complete song as a warmup. (specific!)
Now that’s an effective ritual! Here are the components that make it effective:
- It is SUPER EASY to start. All you did was take a breath and wiggle your fingers to begin slipping into your practice routine.
- It is SUPER FAST. I just timed myself and it took me less than 30 seconds to breath, smile, wiggle my fingers, and play A, B7, C, D, E, F and G. That means that after only 30 seconds I became an “object in motion” ready to start playing my first song.
- It is CONSISTENT. When you get a ritual that works, don’t change it! The whole point is to remove the chance of indecision or overthinking.
- It is MEANINGFUL. Some may argue with me on this point–but in my own life, I find I enjoy and am more effective in my work, exercise, practice and even writing blogs when I connect what I’m doing to something higher and deeper.
A Real Life Ritual From My Life
Even though my habit stack for blog writing might seem to look like:
Morning Coffee ⇒⇒⇒ Write Blog
The reality is that it’s much more detailed:
Morning Coffee ⇒⇒⇒ Ritualistically open Spotify, start my 25 minute timer, start “Run For The Hills” by Iron Maiden, open my laptop and click on my “blogs” bookmark and my blog in progress. Then I start reading what I wrote in my previous session and making tiny edits.
There are no choices to make during the ritual–or rather The Ritual. It’s a special way to enter into my writing time. In fact, by the time Bruce Dickenson yells “Run to the hillllllls” I might not even notice. Sometimes I even forget to drink my coffee.
Forgetting coffee? Wow. That’s the power of ritual. I’ve used this
What habit is so important to you that you would be willing to spend 30 seconds in a ritual to get it off to a sacred start?
On To Greatness,
Founder, NYC Guitar School
PS What do you think, Lao Tzu? And how about you, Aristotle?
“Well begun is half done.” — Aristotle
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu