Ritual De Lo Habitual


The times in my life when I have been most successful, aligned and happy are the times when I have had a positive routine that I stuck to.  The way I thought about this and still think of it is “ritualized habit” or “Ritual de lo habitual”.  
Putting the nod to Janes Addiction to one side, this article is all about the power of positive habits, why they are important, how they make success part of your daily routine and how to incorporate them in your life (if you feel you don't have time for extra stuff in your routine, check out this article).  

To give this some context, I will share examples of my past rituals and talk about the ones I use today.

Way back in 2009, I was single (I hadn’t met my lovely wife yet).  I devoted all of my free time to training.  My goal was to be as good as I could be at Muay-Thai and BJJ.  The nature of my job meant that keeping a routine was tough because I was traveling to Europe, the US or Asia every few weeks.  At that time I was training with a friend who lived in Preston, I would go over on a Friday night and we would go out get hammered, try and pull, etc.  On the Saturday we would train.  My friend had a ridiculous work ethic (far better than my own) and a sadistic approach to training.  He had designed a run on the sand dunes of Lytham St Annes beach.  This run became my ritual, I fucking hated it and loved it. 


March 2009: Contemplating the run, proving that podgy guys shouldn't wear lycra


If you have ever run on sand you will know, it is hard, fucking hard.  The run started off by the pier at the idea was you run up the steep bank of the sand dune to the top, along it then down the dip to the beach again.  You keep repeating this to the end of the beach, then do interval sprints run, sprint, walk between the streetlights back to the pier.  I always reached a point with this run where I puked (normally because of the amount alcohol in my system).  Looking back it was a stupid thing to do, the amount of strain I put on my system. 

The run became a dick measuring contest about who could do the most “up downs”  It got ridiculous, one day we spent two hours before we got to the interval sprints.  The great thing about it was that it was always different, the dunes are alive, they change subtley with the weather, a new challenge.


Head stand at the top of the dunes, those shorts... 


So how did this become a ritual? 

By the end of the run I would have to empty the sand out of my shoes.  One day I decided I wouldn’t, I had an empty protein tub in my car.  I emptied the sand from my shoes into it, I had earned that sand, it was mine.  This was part of my ritual, I had to do it, I had to earn my sand, not to mention the endorphin rush when I had done it.  Each week, even when my friend wasn’t able to, I would drive up to Lytham St Annes and do that run.  In my head I would think “no one else is doing this” or “ritual de lo habitual” envisioning the sand I got to keep at the end of my run.

Returning to the present, I use this method to evolve and focus on areas I am developing.  For example, over the past year or two I have been working on meditation, yoga and writing a gratitude journal (I will write an article on this in the future).  I have been on/ off with these skills for a long time and not really progressed but since I ritualised them into daily habits my growth and mindset has been amazing. 

How did I do this?  

Simple, I set myself rules.  Here they are:
  1. There is no point me going to work or leaving the house in the morning unless I have done at least ten minutes yoga
  2. When I get to work, I turn on my PC, grab my gratitude journal and go down to the coffee shop and write it
  3. I put time aside to meditate for at least ten minutes each day.  Either when I park up after driving to work, on my lunch break or when I get home in the evening
The thing about rules is I need to stick to them and hold myself accountable.  I need to see progress, I love seeing things come together and working.  To track my progress I will time myself, my wife bought me a Withings Steel HR sport for my birthday this year (an excellent hybrid watch) it lets me time specific activities e.g. yoga, fitness, meditation.  Timing the activity keeps me accountable.  I can see my results in the watch’s app.  As well as that I use another habit app called HabitBull, the free version lets you set five habits with different tracking criteria. 

What are the benefits of ritualised habits?

Personally, I find ritualised habits immensely powerful and fulfilling.  I love the sense of satisfaction and achievement I get when I complete one.  Yoga is my best example, I love it, the fact that I have done some before I leave the house sets me up for a great day.  It helps with my mobility and flexibility work, I love the rush I get when I feel a muscle relax, it calms my breathing and centers me.  Most important of all – I am doing something for me at the start of my day before I go and do the job I have to do to earn freedom funds.

Summary

Ritualised daily habits are so powerful, on their own, they turbocharge your success and the way you feel.  When you link your habits to your goals, it is like taking evolutionary amphetamines (for more on that read my article on goals and habit). 

Here is a quick summary of the method I use to set up a habitual ritual:
  1. Decide what you want to achieve, change or learn
  2. Have a think about how you can work it into your daily routine (see my article on having enough time to help with this)
  3. Write your habits somewhere you see them every day and tick them off (I use my chalkboard wall in my living room).  The idea is to make them visible where you spend most of your time e.g. on the door of your fridge, reminders on your phone's lock screen, etc
  4. Hold yourself accountable and monitor your success.   Create silly prizes that you get when you do it e.g. when I have held plank for 4 minutes, I get to flop down lie here and sweat reveling that I did it OR I get to sit here and appreciate this cup of coffee while I write my gratitude journal (I will write an article on gratitude journaling in the future)
A note on accountability, I used to beat myself up over failure so much.  It isn't a big deal if you miss a habit think "ok I didn't succeed today but I will tomorrow"  The goal is to make this second nature, who cares if you failed a bit along the way. 

Good luck.  Peace and love Andy.

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