Every morning I hop out of bed and make a pot of green tea. I listen to the birds as they come awake in the dawn, and look over the garden as the sun paints the sky. It’s a delightful moment of serenity and promise for the day ahead. It is a brief and sacred moment that reminds me of the miracle of being alive. It fills me with gratitude and happiness.
Such is the nature of ritual. A dedicated practice that is enjoyable for its own sake, in service to a higher intention.
It differs from a habit which is simply a repeated behaviour for an intended result.
Habits are a functional means to an end; rituals are a delightful means of a function. Habits are about results; rituals are about experience.
When you turn 100, if you’re lucky enough to get a century on the planet, how do you want to feel about your life? We don’t end up with a happy life, a rewarding life, by waiting for things to be ‘just so’. The quality of our life comes from the accumulation of moments, ones that we choose deliberately, and experience fully. This kind of focus requires more than just habits; it needs the honouring that comes with ritual.
Casper Ter Kuile has a delightful book, called The Power of Ritual: Turning Everyday Activities Into Soulful Practices.
While reading his suggestions and stories, I was struck by the sense of awe and wonder that comes from the practice of embedding rituals in everyday living. Life is a breath exhaled, and I don’t want to waste a moment.
Here are three ways to improve your personal leadership through carefully crafted rituals.
1. Reflection Rituals for honing our thinking
Through reflection, we can integrate aspects of ourselves and our experience. Rather than blustering through the days, one after another, we can make meaning and learn from our daily experiences.
Some rituals to consider:
Journaling. Share your concerns, your questions, your joys, your observations with the page. Clarity often comes through expression.
Reading (sacred or inspirational texts, and asking, what does this mean for me). Allowing stimulation of thought and space for connecting the dots in your own experience creates new insights.
Drawing or sketching. We all see the world through different lenses. Drawing can help bring this to life.
Audio recording of your insights. Capturing out loud on a voice recorder is the non-writer’s alternative to journaling. It offers depth of energy that the written word often cannot.
Make connections between experiences. Review your progress and development over time. Celebrate small and big wins.
2. Renewal Rituals to elevate our leadership doing
The more conscious of where we are in the moment, the more amazing the experience becomes. Here are a few ways to make the ordinary extraordinary.
Sabbath: take a break from technology for a 24 hour period each week (or for longer) to just be present. Go about your life admin with full focus: laundry, cooking, resting. This allows the brain to decompress, integrate experiences, without a constant barrage of stimulation.
Meals: Though I was not raised with a religion, I think the practice of pausing before a meal to express gratitude and appreciation for the food and all those who grew it, processed and transported it, and prepared it, is a wonderful way to revel in abundance. It’s a way of honouring all those unseen hands who contribute to keeping us healthy and alive, and the food itself for its nourishment.
Meditation: I have had a regular meditation practice for six years now. The consistency of doing it has made it even more rewarding over time. The quiet, the peace, the ease that comes with it makes it a reverential practice.
Exercise: While exercise may feel like a chore, if we choose to dedicate our workout to something bigger than just ‘because I should’ or ‘because I need to improve my body’, it becomes a celebration of living. I often dedicate a run or a workout to existence, grateful for having a body that I can move and experience the world with.
3. Rituals of Contemplation to deepen our sense of being
Nature is a source of awe. Spending time simply observing the natural world is a gift of wonder. Out in my garden, I am struck always by the timelessness of natural cycles as well as the fragility of individual living things. It is so beautiful, it brings tears to my eyes in wondrous rapture.
Rituals help bring joy to the mundane, helping us savour all moments – big and small. What rituals might you embrace to bring more delight to your daily world?