The new year 2017 is here, and with it come the billions of small promises we all make to spark some change in our lives. For some it will be a brand new creative endeavor For others it will be the abandonment of bad habit. Almost invariably, resolutions center on the formation or destruction of a habit. Habits are like compound interest. If you understand how to harness their power, the returns in the long run are enormous. But how do we support the willpower it requires to start and sustain a new habit?
An often overlooked tool in our quest for habit formation is the simple ritual. A ritual is a series of actions or behaviors followed without deviation. Though rituals are most often associated with religious ceremonies or family traditions, there’s increasing scientific evidence to suggest that rituals appear to benefit even people who claim not to believe that rituals work. Rituals have also been shown to alleviate grief after loss and help enhance confidence before sporting events.
Rituals can serve as an excellent “boot up” routine for a new habit. As most gym rats will tell you, the hardest part of most people’s workout is putting on their shoes. But the act of putting on the gym clothes, preparing your sports drink, and printing out your lifting routine can become a powerful ritual which gets you in the mindset for your workout and puts you on automatic pilot.
Some rituals don’t have to be directly related to a habit we want to build or break. For instance, you might decide to start each day by sitting down at the kitchen table and drinking a large glass of ice cold water. The act of drinking the water might simply be a moment to reflect on and remind yourself of your commitments, “filling you up” with willpower. What rituals do you have in your life? Where are there opportunities to create new rituals?
Here’s hoping your rituals serve you well in 2017!