Are rituals part of your life? Maybe you'd like to better understand what I'm asking before you commit to an answer. In my way of thinking, a ritual is a prescribed or established rite, ceremony, proceeding, or service. Lots of things that happen in religious establishments qualify as rituals too, but that's not specifically what I'm talking about here.
During a recent coaching call we were exploring the ways I could restart some habits. It was suggested that the use of ritual might help. The conversation took some interesting twists and turns, and I got intrigued with this concept of ritual helping make and break habits. It would be useful for me if I could figure out how to make it work.
Personally, I think rituals are fun. Energizing, even! They add depth and breadth to any number of activities, from trivial to important. For example, Wayne Dyer had a ritual of giving thanks three times as he arose each morning. Boulder, Colorado, used to have a ritual of the world's shortest St. Patrick's Day parade in front of the only Irish bar in town at the time; the green semi-truck that was part of the parade was longer than the parade route.
You may participate in some rituals yourself, like tailgate parties before (during and after too?) football games, class reunions, Mardi Gras, the Tooth Fairy, brushing your teeth before bed, Cinco de Mayo, the girls' or boys' night out, and reading or saying prayers before bed - you get the idea, and can most likely expand on this list.
You may be wondering about now, how can ritual help with creating or breaking habits? In some ways, a ritual is a habit. From that perspective, it comes about because it has importance to you.
To start with, let me point out my client was de-energized by some of the missing habits that formerly were enjoyed. And disgusted by habits that had snuck in.
When I used to wear contacts my morning ritual was to get dressed, comb my hair, put my contacts in, and brush my teeth. When I quit wearing contacts my toothbrushing habit suffered. The ritual was broken, and days of fuzzy teeth ensued. Ick! It became vital to me to find a way to get that done so I could stand being with myself. Leaving the toothbrush and tooth powder out at night triggered me to use them in the morning. Ta da! Then, when I wanted to start stretching every morning, I chained that desired new habit to the trigger of brushing my teeth. My morning ritual is entrenched now, and I love it!
Adopt a similar thought pattern to start the new habits: start with a ritual that was already in place - going to morning prayer. That would be the trigger for a new habit - walking for thirty minutes afterward. Chaining to that triggered-event was the habit of going to the organic green grocer on the way home to buy fresh produce for lunch and/or dinner. After those three activities were finished, going to the office to tackle the first task of the day, the one that took the most concentration, focus, and fresh brain was next. Hence, a new ritual was born - comprised of four activities.
You can do the same thing with habits you want to form. Use anchors, triggers, and chains of activities.
Then how can ritual be used to break habits? First, what is the habit you want to break and why do you want to break it? Those are important questions to answer before figuring out how to use the concept of ritual to help you drop that habit. What I'm asking is, do you really want to break the habit - or do you just think you should, or someone told you that you should.
OK, do you have the answer to those questions yet? Now, what activity, thought, or behavior happens just before or after the habit you're thinking about breaking? Let's say, for this exercise, that you have three chained events. Presuming those are desirable events, think about what habit can you substitute for the undesirable habit. When the first event happens, replace the second event with the new and desirable event, and then connect the third event to the new one.
Or, if you don't have a habit you want to substitute, here's a suggestion of how to remove it. Consciously break the chain of events so you can remove the middle event (the bad habit), and then connect the first and third events into a new chain. That lets the first event in the chain quit acting as a trigger for the second event, and instead trigger the original third event. The original third event is now the second event. Follow that?
It's like fixing the backyard swing by removing the bad link. The swingset I had as a kid had chains, not ropes, to connect the swing seat to the swingset frame, making that analogy easy for me.
You have now created a new ritual that supports the habits you want in your life. Cool, huh.
Taking control of your life by introducing new, desirable-to-you habits, or old, undesirable-to-you habits energizes you. There are lots of wins in this concept. I hope you'll play with it to make it work for you too.
Kit Cassingham is the Chief Energizing Officer at LIFE (Live In Focused Energy). She's been coaching professionals in energizing their lives for vitality, productivity, alertness, and satisfaction since 1989. Kit lives an energized life, and continuously looks for ways to help improve that lifestyle for herself and others.
Take control of your life through your attitude, health habits, and energizing habits. Kit's LIFE coaching is the answer to help you create the productive and energetic life you aspire to, and to help you age gracefully. https://www.LiveInFocusedEnergy.com is the doorway to that life.