Rituals or Rewards?

People often mistakenly think that we work in the space of transformational change. They believe that to create an improved sense of well being, surely major life changing events must occur? Yet it is far from the reality. Health and Wellness coaches are the in the business of helping people create new habits, step by (often mundane) step and this is where rituals become important and incredibly helpful.

What is a ritual?  What does it do?  Now, we’re not talking about having turkey on Christmas Day here. We’re thinking more of the small “ceremonies” like clinking your glasses before having a celebratory drink with friends.  Somehow it adds to the pleasure. If we translate this into other areas, we are looking for anything that creates a significance around what might be a simple daily habit, that adds to the pleasure and the likelihood of it eventuating  Rituals are very powerful motivational tools!  

So what do rituals do?  
They increase the pleasure of the moment or activity.  The can steel your resolve, focus your attention and help you savour the moment.

We know that “savouring” is a good thing.  It is one of the components of this shift towards mindfulness that is so very current (and so very helpful in increasing well being).  

So how can we use the concept of Rituals in creating new habits?
First we identify what new behaviours we wish to adopt, or do more of, and whether they are pleasurable or not so pleasurable, think of ways of increasing the pleasure of beginning.  So instead of rewarding ourselves for finishing the “task” we start by doing something we look forward to. For example, it may be sharing a juice or coffee with friends before a yoga class.  It may be having a c up of tea in the morning before heading out for that early morning ride.   It doesn’t all have to be about caffeine.. It could be any activity you really enjoy but you need to set a time on it and be ready to move into the “real” task after a set time.  

The technique can really help combat procrastination. Charles Duhigg refers to it as a “personal starting ritual”. Don’t get rid of pleasurable activities upon finishing – rewards are great!  But don’t underestimate the power of  rituals that get  you going.

What else can rituals do?
Rituals are useful in so many ways.  To name a few:

  • Improving your relationship
  • Improving your sports performance
  • Making you better at work
  • Overcoming grief
  • Increasing happiness!

What are your personal rituals?  Do you have enough of them in  your life?  If not, create a few!