How to Harness the Power of Rituals to Improve Your Life

daily rituals 45kbRituals?  Really?

No, I’m not talking about the religious stuff that a priest might do in the front of the church. I’m talking about the rituals that some of us would call routines, things like brushing your teeth, or walking the dog, or reframing your day by delighting in Jesus over your morning coffee.

Ritual – any practice or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner (Dictionary.com)

Rituals Reframe Emotions, Thinking and Physical Responses

I hate routines. I’m not much of a process person either. So when I became a life coach, I was rather slow to admit the value of rituals.  But there’s been a lot of research on this. We know that athletes have been using rituals for a long time. They tell us that rituals help them get in a winning frame of mind and somehow prepare their minds and bodies to perform. Research now confirms that.

Rituals can be a powerful force for personal change. Gwen Moran writes:

Workplace wellness and positive psychology expert Michelle McQuaid says that rituals “shape the way our brains are feeling, thinking and acting.” Rituals signal to us that it’s time for a specific mindset or activity. They act as triggers to more effortlessly get us ready for what we need to do.

Begin Your Day with a Goal in Mind

For example, Benjamin Franklin began every day by asking himself one question: “What good will I do today?”

He was renewing his mind to his life purpose – “doing good.”  He was preparing his heart and his mind to do good that day. Not only was he actively creating a trigger to do good as a result of this ritual, he may have planned what tasks  or who to do good for that day as a result of this question.

End Your Day Reflecting How Well You Met that Goal

Before he went to bed at night, Ben Franklin asked himself: “What good did I do today?”

Every night he celebrated what he had done or reflected on what he could have done better.  In this way, he created momentum for the next morning before his head ever hit the pillow the night before. There is a powerful lesson there for us.

Harness the Power of Ritual to Fulfill Your Life Goals

I recently read that 40-50% of everything we do in a day is based on a ritual. Once established, we are reluctant to change our daily routines. They become automatic. We do them without thinking about them.

  • What do you most want to accomplish in your life?  Benjamin Franklin vaguely defined his life goal as “doing good.”  What is yours?
  • Create a question that stimulates you to take a simple action to fulfill that goal TODAY.  “What will I do today to [ life goal ]?”   (For example, “What will I do today to [demonstrate the love of Jesus?]”)
    • Take simple, tangible steps toward your life goal.  (Who, what, when, where….)
    • One key to this is to attempt only what you know you can do.  Build a series of successes doing this day after day.  Over time, taking action to fulfill your life goal will become a routine part of your life.  It won’t just be a goal.  It will be your lifestyle.
  • Set a time and place where you are going to ask yourself that question every morning.  Since this is really important to you, do it first.  (E.g. I will ask myself this question while having my morning coffee, in my study, before I look at e-mail, Facebook, etc.)
  • Every Evening Reflect on Progress toward Your Life Goal
    • “What did I do today to [life goal]?”
    • Celebrate!  It’s important to reflect what you did and the results and spend some time experiencing the satisfaction of living the life you were meant to live.
    • Change.  If you didn’t take action toward your goal, think about why.  And make small changes to ensure you will be able to take some small step that direction tomorrow.
    • Reflect how good you are going to feel tomorrow when you succeed.
  • Set a time and place where you are going to reflect on your progress and celebrate.
    • Part of setting rituals is doing them at the same time, place and in a way that is comfortable to you.
    • (I.e. I will reflect on and celebrate progress toward my life goal just before I begin watching TV.  I will sit down with a tall glass of iced tea and my journal and I will celebrate my life and the impact God is empowering me to have as I put action to my faith.)

Today, set aside 30 minutes to create a ritual of taking action toward the thing that is most important to you – your life goal.  Set specific times and places for your morning and evening times and write out the questions for your daily ritual of living a purpose driven life.

I will show you my faith by my works.

James 2:18 (NIV)

 

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About Dave Milford

I am a Christian life coach, writer and teacher.
I help people live lives of heart connection, heart transformation, and real influence.

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