I found this book (Daily Rituals: How Artist Work) at the library yesterday and it’s been a fun read. It looks at the lives of famous authors, artists, and thought-leaders and shares some of the rituals (habits) that aided (or hurt) their productivity. It’s a quick read and it’s easy to pick up and set down because each person is explored in a short segment between 1-4 pages.
My major takeaway is everyone that everyone has rituals–some are unexamined, others are very intentional. My other major takeaway is that effectiveness of a particular ritual depends on the person. There is no one size fits all ritual. A minor takaway is that taking long walks and drinking alcohol seem to help a lot of people.
I’ve recently been thinking about daily rituals for two reasons. First, my lead pastor has been vocal about how adding in daily and weekly rituals have helped him as a leader, pastor, family man, and child of God. Second, I’m currently rereading Essentialism which talks about the value of rituals to help you do the things you want to do with less thinking and less stress.
Here’s what I’m learning about rituals:
- Rituals allow you to think less about things that unnecessarily tie up brain-space. I’m facing some serious decision-fatigue in my life right now. I’m looking for ways to make less decisions so I’ve got the brain-space I need to make good decisions. I’m considering moving toward an all-black and grey (with appropriate accents) wardrobe and laying out outfits for the whole week on Saturday night so I never have to think about what I’m wearing. I’m not good at fashion, I don’t enjoy it, and it takes me forever to find and outfit. On a more simple scale, our six-year old has a bed time ritual: she goes to her room, puts on pajamas, brushes her teeth, then one of us goes up and reads a book, the Bible, and prays with her then she crawls into bed. She’s building in good habits with these rituals like brushing her teeth and reading her Bible without thinking about it, it’s just what she does.
- Rituals can help you adjust more efficiently. If you go through a ritual when you’re preparing to spend quiet time with God (like grabbing your tea, sitting in your favorite chair, opening your journal, and quieting your mind) your mind begins the transition as soon as you grab your tea and sit in your chair because it knows what’s coming. With my daughter’s night time ritual, it’s easier for her to fall asleep when we’ve walked through the whole ritual because her brain is catching on that it’s sleep time and begins preparing for that.
- I need rituals to keep me sane. I’m learning that I’m not taking control of my schedule so it is controlling me and by the time I get home at night, I’m fried and my family-life suffers. So, in addition to finding other ways to get my calendar to calm down, I’m trying out a ritual where I spend 30 minutes at the end of my workday exercising before I head home. The goal is to release stress and give my brain time to transition between work and family. I’ve only done it once but it worked well, so I want to become more consistent at it.
- I rebel against rituals. As much as I think I want structure I’m drawn to jobs that are not structured. It has been years since I’ve had a job with a clear clock-in/clock-out time. I like my the freedom my current job allows. I’m afraid rituals will box me in. In my personal life, I love Fridays (my day off) because it’s the day that I drive my daughter to school while wearing my pajamas under my boots and coat. I love the feeling of rebelling against the expectation that I get up, get dressed, and get moving. There is a happy medium between control and chaos and I have not yet found it and I know rituals can help but I fear they’ll become restrictive.
I’m clearly a work-in-process when it comes to rituals; I’m sure you are too. If you’re interested in thinking more about rituals, stream Pete’s sermon online on the 22nd (next Sunday) and follow All Shores’ Facebook Page the week of January 23-29 as we’ll be posting different rituals that help people in our church connect with God as part of our 28 Ways in 28 Days series. You could also check out either of the books mentioned above or the Art of Simple Podcast that I listened to today (episode 42).
What rituals do you have that are helpful? Unhelpful? How do you change your habits?