room on the edge

inspiration (+ a push)

Habit or Ritual? 8 Steps to creating a new one.

Lately, I’ve been trying very hard to cultivate some new habits. These include practicing yoga instead of thinking about it, managing my time more efficiently instead of multi-tasking and getting nowhere, writing blog and twitter posts regularly instead of whenever I feel like, doing the work in Darren’s fantastic 31 days to Build a Better Blog course, taking time out to relax instead of moving straight on to the next thing on the list, or rather, mindmap… and lots more.


How am I getting on? Well, it’s a bit up and down in places, but in general, I am doing OK. What’s working best? The things I find easiest are the short, regular, little things that I can integrate quickly and easily into my existing routine. Earlier this year, I attended T. Harv Eker’s amazing Millionaire Mind Intensive in London and am duly following his ’90 Day Wealth Conditioning Program’. Each day, there are some vocal exercises or Declarations, which take less than a minute, a short set of physical exercises that take about 3 minutes and some written exercises which take about another 5 minutes.

Knowing how long, or rather, how short, they take to complete, I have had no problem so far in actually DOING them. Not skipping on them or trying to take shortcuts, but actually doing them. It’s becoming semi-automatic after cleaning my teeth in the morning, to actually walk into the bedroom, pick up the 90 Day workbook and do. In fact, it’s becoming a little ritual for me and one that I’m already fairly fond of – ie. it’s not a chore and I look forward to doing it.

So, I ask myself, is it the fact that it feels like a little ritual rather than a habit that is helping it work for me? A recent Philosopher’s Notes audio (thanks Brian!) highlighted this distinction. A habit is something usually associated with something negative ‘she has a habit of… biting her nails, showing up late, talking too much…’ etc etc. A ritual is more conscious and deliberate, something we actively choose to do for a positive reason. For me, this small act of focusing on my financial health is a very positive alternative to my previous habit of avoiding anything financial altogether – sticking my head in the sand, so to speak.

Are you finding it difficult to integrate new habits into your life? It could be remembering to be grateful, acknowledging your successes, sending out sales letters, keeping your paperwork in order, updating your accounts regularly, noticing and appreciating the good things about your partner, reading with your children, taking frequent breaks from looking at a screen, writing in your journal, working in your studio or simply (!) letting your partner have his or her say without interrupting or arguing…

According to coaching experts like Bob Proctor, it takes only 21 consecutive days of repetition to create a new habit – ie. something you do automatically without needing to think about it. In my own personal experience though, most people can do the first seven days, no problem, and then falter in week two or three – they forget or have something more important to do or get sidetracked for a day or two… lose their momentum and so are back to square one… discouraged and a little less confident about succeeding the next time.

So, if the habit thing is not working for you, try another approach. Here are some tips:

1. Get clear on WIIFM – What’s In It For Me? – if you establish this habit/ritual into your life, how will it benefit you? In what ways will your life improve? Ponder on this for at least a few minutes. Better still, write these benefits to yourself down (transfer it from being an idea in your head into a written ‘real’ thing). If you’re clear on why you’re doing it, you’re much more likely to succeed – a Rain Dance has a specific purpose!

2. Make a commitment to yourself to do this thing regularly for a fixed mimimum period of time, as if it is a short experiment in your life, rather than an unending forever. eg. I will do this for 31/60/90 days and then review it. Again, write this commitment to yourself down. (Have you started a journal/scrapbook/ideasbook/sketchbook yet?) Trial it for a while – you might not always want to create Rain!

3. Commit to making the time You won’t ever find it! We all have the same 24 hours in a day – something will have to give, which is part of your own commitment you just made to yourself. If it’s worth doing, there are NO EXCUSES. (Read Napoleon Hill’s 57 Alibis in Think and Grow Rich for some added va-va-vroom!). Picture yourself enjoying all those lovely benefits you wrote down – imagine what that would feel like…

4. Keep it short and simple to start with. It needs to be enough to make a difference, but not enough to be ‘impossible’ to fit in, so that you are tempted to bail out with those endless alibis or excuses. Make it so there are no excuses – get it working first, then build up the time later if you wish. Think Mini Rain Dance – once you’ve successfully created a puddle, you’ll have increased confidence in yourself to go for creating a river, a great lake or maybe an ocean… or maybe just lots more puddles, if that’s working for you!

5. Do the new thing immediately before or after something that is already an established habit, such as cleaning your teeth, leaving/arriving at a certain time or taking a coffee break, to help slide it into your amazingly busy life.

6. Make it easy to remember to do it. Leave helpful reminders to yourself – write a note and leave it by your toothbrush or leave an strange object in an out-of-place space as a trigger. eg. If you’re reminding yourself to do 10 minutes yoga practice, put your yoga mat rolled up on top of the TV or right in the way of the front door so you can’t leave without actually moving it. The possibilities are endless – do what you know will work for you, based on what you already know will work for you – if you’re an agenda-based person schedule it in – actually make an appointment with yourself, send yourself a reminder email or simply set an alarm. Think church bells or ceremonial drums – call yourself to attend.

7. Have a definite Beginning, Middle and End. Rituals are normally clearly separate from our daily lives – they are special and warrant special attention – there’s no point in doing them half-heartedly. The beginning and end mark the transitions from our normal state to this special attention one and back again. So how will you mark the start of your new thing? Maybe you simply stand still and close your eyes, or play some music, or light a candle or ring a bell… How will you mark the end? Make these parts definite.

8. Add a ritual element or two and see if they help. This is the fun bit – jazz it up a little! Rituals often have an out-of-the-ordinary element to them: What will you add to enhance yours? Here are just a few suggestions:
– What special music you can play, hum or sing? What would be an appropriate Theme Tune?
– What noises or words would help? These can mean something or why not just make them up?
– Which special smells would enhance the mood you want to create eg. incense, perfume, coffee, freshly sliced fruit…
– What can you do to adjust the lighting if necessary?
– Which body movements help? eg. swaying, tapping, stretching, dancing – what would be most fun/serious?
– What clothing, headgear or eyewear would help you get more into the spirit of it? hats, dark glasses…
– Which objects or props will help? this could simply be a special book to write your thoughts down afterwards.
Use your imagination and intuition here – make it fun, make it partly surreal or at least make it different. For instance, I sway to and fro and rub my ears (an NLP technique) when I’m saying my wealth declarations – it’d probably freak out any passing aliens – or neighbours for that matter – if they saw me, but I find it helps! Maybe that’s a good benchmark – would people think you strange if they saw you doing this? If they would, you’re on the right track!

8. Each time you finish, laugh out loud. Release any seriousness you may have built up before going back to the rest of your day with a smile 🙂

Invent some new rituals and add them into your life – and please post your ideas/results/comments about how you get on by clicking the Leave a comment link below.


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