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Struggling to make that change? Try creating a ritual.

young woman is sitting in a chair meditating in a softly lit room.  There is a subtle smile on her face as though she is enjoying meditating.

I don’t know about you but I’ve been struggling with some changes lately. And I’m not talking about the ones that are happening ‘to us’, I’m talking about the ones that ‘I’m’ choosing.

Whether you want to be more productive working from home, practice mindfulness, or just be more connected to your team, if you’re struggling to make a change, creating a ritual may help.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence therefore, is not an act, but a habit.”

Goethe

Want that change to feel a bit easier? Try creating a ritual.

No matter what aspect of my life I look at, good or bad, it’s a reflection of the habits or behaviors I’ve done (or not done) consistently over time.

If you want to feel more resilient, try creating some rituals.

As a leader in an organization, I would get to work early so that I was ready for my team, the customers and the day. I’d roar between coaching employees, customer call backs, meetings and emails. My plans to go for a run at lunch would evaporate in the face of more work. Once home I’d want to spend quality time with my wife and son, study for my masters, then hit the rack.

Somehow, I got the genius idea to wake up earlier and go for a run before work. This way, no matter what happened or how busy I got – too late! the work out was already done. Not rocket science, right? However….

With each successive run, I started to get a little better at running. As I got better, running felt easier, I started to get leaner, and my resting heart rate dropped. It got so I could hardly wait to for my run. As Charles Duhigg would say, I was harnessing the power of habit.

Think about something you love to do. Chances are, be it math, golf, yoga, or your job, there was a time when you may not have been as good at it. But with practice, you got better and it became easier. This is the power of practice, or rituals.

When we practice our priority values, we experience life as more meaningful, important, and joyful

Scott Bristol, Phd.

As values expert Scott Bristol Phd would say, ‘When we have an opportunity to practice priority values (those things most important to us), we experience life as more meaningful, important and fun’.

However, sometimes it can be challenging to build those things we care about, back into our busy lives.  We try once and give up. Well, as Anthony Robbins says, “you can’t go to the gym once, and expect to be fit for life.”

So how do we create a habit when things always seem to get in the way?

6 easy steps to create a ritual

1/ Pick ONE. There are SO MANY things out there that we might want to get good at: being more productive working from home, eating better, homeschooling, coding, stretching. It’s like a kid in a candy store.

Pick one change you want to make and focus on that. For example, let’s say you want to take up running and learn a second language. You can certainly do both, but the most successful goal achievers pick one goal and begin with that. In this case, let’s say your chosen goal becomes, “I’ll take up running to improve my fitness.” Now that you’ve made that a priority, you’ll be more likely to make decisions that support that goal, such as protecting time in your calendar. These days we have enough distractions.

I have a friend who wanted to lower his cholesterol and blood pressure. He could have started going to fitness classes, changed his eating habits, and started meditating. All of these things would help. But he decided to start with one. He chose to focus on his eating habits. Fresh healthy foods, no more banana bread with coffee (sorry Starbucks) and cutting out breads. Stay tuned to hear how he did.

2/ Get clear on your Why. If goals were so easy to accomplish, we’d all have everything we want. But challenges show up, whether it’s competing demands on your time, a steep learning curve, or obstacles that get in the way. One thing that can help us push through, around, or over the obstacles is having a compelling reason for ‘why’ we’re pursuing this goal. For example, if running a marathon is the goal, it might go something like this.

  • I want to run a marathon – (why is that important?)
  • I’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and pride – (why’s that important?)
  • Because I’ll feel healthy, fit, and energized – (why is that important?)
  • I want to be an inspiration for my son/daughter that they can do anything they put their mind to.

You could keep going such as with the 5 Why’s technique. But just drill down until you find something compelling enough to motivate you through the hard times – like going for your run on that dark November morning even though it’s pouring rain and ‘getting it done’. If you live in Vancouver Canada, you know what I’m talking about.

My friend has a wife and children and he wants to be there for them.

3/ Start small. I didn’t say ‘think small.’ Big goals are exciting and they stretch your comfort zone. For example, if your goal is to eventually run a marathon, you can do it! But don’t start off running six milers, six days in a row. You’ll be setting yourself up for an injury or at the very least, burn out. Instead, ease into it. Create a practice that allows you to run consistently, and build up your running over time. *by the way, if fitness is your goal, try getting help from a certified personal trainer.

Let’s say you decide you want to connect more with your employees, especially since many of them have been working more remotely. While your goal may be to increase employee engagement or to create more trust with everyone on the team (noble cause) start small:

Who is one employee you could start with? Drop them a note and ask to set up a short call or zoom meeting. Perhaps you could commit to ‘check-in’ on just one employee a day. ‘Hey just called to see how things are going?’. That would be 5 check-ins a week!

If you haven’t been that connected with your team in the past – what a perfect reason to start. If someone asks ‘what, have you been on a leadership course or read some blog?’ (by the way, they won’t say that) you could say ‘Ya, and it reminded me that I really want to reconnect with you.’

My friend? He started by eating breakfast at home, and taking a lunch of fresh, nutritious vegetables to work, rather than buying lunch. How simple is that? He didn’t change ‘everything’ all at once. He started small.

4/ Stay with it. If your new goal was so easy to achieve, you’d already be doing it. It takes time to develop a new habit or to improve.  As Malcom Gladwell says in his book Outliers, the ‘best’ in the world aren’t just born that way – they practice -10,000 hours as a matter of fact! So be patient with yourself and stay with it. 

If it’s a skill, such as learning a new language, playing an instrument, or creating concise video blogs, remember Anders Ericsson‘s advice from his research in PEAK. To accelerate your ability to improve your skill you need deliberate practice and feedback.

Note to leaders. Remember that when we ask an employee to do something new, it may take time for them to develop that new skill. Positive feedback and positive ideas from you can go a long way toward reinforcing what’s working, keeping them motivated, and providing ideas that help them continue to improve.

Secondly, challenges show up.  Let’s say you want to walk three days a week at lunch.  You walk on Monday and Wednesday, but Friday you get pulled into last-minute meeting.  These things happen. Don’t give up.  Try walking before work on Fridays, walk after work, or go with a friend on Saturday morning.   

In It Starts With One Black and Gregersen share a story of an Airline Gate agent who receives training on specific steps how to calm down an angry traveler. Well, sometimes those steps don’t work and the traveler get’s angry despite our best efforts. Don’t give up. Keep practicing. Eventually those difficult conversations will get easier and likely more successful.

My friend? Someone brings bagels to the meeting at work. He gets invited to a Friday night barbeque with beer and burgers. These challenges are going to show up. Remember your why and stay with it.  

5/ Celebrate success! – even the small ones. For example, when you take that first walk at lunch, acknowledge what it took to do that; from scheduling it in Outlook to having to say ‘no’ to someone.

Whatever it took to get you out and breathe fresh air–congratulate yourself. Celebration doesn’t have to mean hiring a marching band. It may be as simple as saying to yourself, “’I did it, I knew I could.”

Let’s say you did reach out to that employee you haven’t spoken with in a while and it didn’t go as well as you wanted. You talked shop the whole time and forgot to ask about their goals, or their passions. Celebrate the fact that you reached out. Tomorrow is another day. You could even say ‘it was great to get caught up on the work front last week and I’d love to spend some time talking about some of your career goals, what’s working, what you’d like to be doing more of….” and set up another call.

My friend? Within a week he started losing weight. But that wasn’t his goal remember? However, he celebrated that. Once a week he’d step on the scale and notice the changes whether weight, blood pressure coming down, or clothes fitting more loosely.

6/ Rinse and repeat: Whatever is helping you to create your new ritual, keep doing it. For example, I’ve created a ritual where, every morning when I wake up, I drink a full glass of crystal-clear water. Then I say to myself, “breakfast of champions”. I’ve started my day with life giving water, I’ve already completed a goal, which makes me feel competent, and I’ve reinforced a good habit. The more I do it, the easier it gets.

Finally, set some milestones. You may intend to do your new habit for life–such as Yoga- but set your sites on the next seven days, or 1 month. This allows you to track progress, celebrate wins, and refocus for the next milestone.

To get you going, try this, right here, right now:

  • What is one new habit you’d like to create?
  • Why is that important to you?
  • What is one small step you could take to start?
  • What is one challenge that might show up?
  • What’s 1 strategy that will help you stay with it and move through the challenge?
  • Who could you tell or invite to join you on your journey?
  • What is one way you will celebrate success?

Whether you’re wanting to connect more with your employees, improve your fitness, or save more money, remember:

  1. Pick ONE goal.
  2. Get clear on the why.
  3. Start small (you can have a big goal, but start small)
  4. Stay with it.
  5. Celebrate success – even the small ones along the way.
  6. Rinse and Repeat – this is the magic that creates consistency.

Oh. And my friend? Well, lowered his blood pressure and cholesterol so well that they suggested he be a little less diligent. Oh, and by the way, he lost 30 lbs.! How’s that for a bonus?

Once you even just define your ritual, you’ll be surprised at what you’re able to accomplish.

I’d love to hear about your goals, success, and ‘failures’ too (trust me, I’ve had lots).
Email me at matt@lidera.ca . 

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