By Leo Babauta
In the month of January, I created a handful of incredible rituals, and they’ve been changing my life.
The rituals are meant to support my focuses for 2018:
- Meditation & mindfulness
- Diet & fitness
- My mission (work focus)
- My relationship
- Creating a regular yoga practice
I have to say, I did a great job on all of these focuses in January, thanks to my rituals!
In this article, I’ll share what helped me create those rituals.
Where I Started Out
It’s important to understand that none of these were completely new rituals — I have had some of them for a long time, but have been inconsistent with them. I wasn’t starting from scratch.
For example, I’ve been meditating for a dozen years, but I have stretches of zero meditation for weeks every year, and I am not as consistent as I’d like.
I’ve practiced yoga off and on for awhile now (more in 2017 than ever before, thanks to my sister) … but never regularly for more than a month.
My work is a pretty consistent practice, but I wanted to refine my focus sessions in the morning.
I’ve been working on my relationship for years, but I wanted to give it more focus this year.
My diet and exercise have been much better than average for years, so I’m not starting from scratch here either … but I wanted to really improve my eating (it’s gotten lax in the last year or two) and get a bit more consistent with exercise.
I don’t recommend starting five rituals in a month, if you’re starting any of them from scratch. Only do this many if you are already established with them.
And if you’re used to changing habits and creating accountability. If not, focus on one or two per month.
The Rituals I Created
These are not all as solid as rock, but they’re becoming much more so:
- Morning meditation, first thing in the morning.
- Focus session for work, soon after meditation.
- Read Getting the Love You Want with my wife, and do praise practice with her, as we have a cup of coffee.
- Don’t eat until noon, just eat two large meals with a medium-sized snack. Bascially, I just have a couple of planned meals that are super healthy, and don’t eat much else.
- Run with wife 3x a week (she reminds me), and work out in the late afternoon 3x a week. So I’m usually doing one or the other every day.
- Yoga in the evening (usually with my 11-year-old daughter).
The eating hasn’t been 100%, but I’m OK with how it’s gone so far. The others have been fairly solid.
What I Did That Worked
With those important points established, let’s look at what really helped me create these rituals:
- Start small. I started morning meditation with just 5 minutes a morning. Now I’m up to 20 minutes most mornings (except for travel). Yoga was just a few sun salutations to start with, and I’m only slowly increasing by adding a pose every few days or so. The healthy eating was a couple small changes each week.
- Stop buying into my excuses. My mind is very good at coming up with rationalizations to put off the rituals. I decided that I have to stop listening to those rationalizations, and instead just take it for granted that I’m going to do the ritual, no matter how I feel. I’m not perfect with this, but I made big strides.
- Create powerful accountability. I am part of a couple of accountability groups in my Sea Change Program (one of them is a program-wide Facebook group), I’m doing eating accountability with my 24-year-old daughter, and I have a dashboard designed to hold me accountable. That’s multiple accountability efforts, to help me stay on track, which is frankly a lot of work. It’s working well!
- Reminders up the wazoo. I have reminders in my calendar, to-do program, paper notebook, habit app, and more. My wife reminds me. My daughter reminds me. The more things I can do to not forget, the better. After awhile, I don’t really need the reminders, but they’re really important for the first 2-3 weeks.
- Daily tracking. I use my Habit Zen app to track my habits each day, and the rituals dashboard does the same thing. I sometimes have to check in later, like when I’m traveling. Tracking just helps reinforce the rituals.
- Weekly reviews to constantly improve: This is one of the most important things I did. Each week, I review how it went. It just has to be a few sentences, and it should be honest but also acknowledge my successes, not just my failures. Then I share it with one of the accountability groups/partners I mentioned above. This helps me to get better each week, and I really think I did get better each week, for the most part. The review deepens my learning and helps me adjust.
- Do some of them with others. I meditate alone, but as I mentioned, I’ve been doing yoga with my daughter, running and relationship work with my wife, and I get the kids involved in my diet (tell them what I’m doing, ask them to help me cook, etc.). It really helps to have a partner — it’s always one of the best ways to keep something on track for me.
- Focus on the joy of the ritual. This is something a lot of people overlook. They focus on getting the habit done, which makes it feel like a chore. Instead, I recommend trying to be present and really focus on how the act of doing the ritual feels, what about it brings you joy, how it’s a gift. This shifts the ritual completely.
In the end, I wasn’t perfect, and I still am not. But I am really enjoying these rituals, and I encourage you to figure out what one or two rituals you can create this month, and how you might use some of these ideas.
And then fall in love with the ritual, each time you’re doing it.
Source: Zen Habits