Using Rituals to Create Lasting Change

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I recently worked with a client that talked about how rituals are important to him. This initially struck me as unusual because that word isn’t used very often. As he went deeper into his story, I started seeing how his rituals were, indeed, of great benefit and began exploring how I could introduce this concept to others.

Once you’ve achieved a mindset that will allow you to pursue a lasting change, whether it be related to health, career, relationships or finances, you’ll still need to successfully adopt your new behaviors and that will take time. Two common methods of reinforcing the desired behaviors include environmental control and conditioning. In the first, you ensure the environment you’re in supports your desired change. For example, if you’re trying to quit smoking, you no longer use the exit that goes right past where you used to hang out when you were a smoker. In conditioning, you simply exchange an unwanted behavior for a better one. For example, taking a drink of water when you’re about to grab an unhealthy snack. Looking at just these two examples, it would appear that rituals have really been used as part of behavior change for years; we just never used that word.

I like the idea of creating formal rituals to be used throughout the day. These can be used to set the framework for achieving goals, to keep things in perspective and to cement your intentions into memory and behavior. Let’s say you’re in a sales position and you hate making sales calls. You have a set monthly goal but you haven’t been making your numbers. What if you created a ritual that supported these goals? You get in the office and make yourself a cup of your favorite tea, take it back to your office and close the door. Next, you take a few minutes to just breathe. Maybe you have an inspirational picture or quote you can ponder. Now, you pick up the phone and work through your contact list for the day. You do this first thing and do nothing else until you’re done. Over time, this ritual simply becomes habit. You become more efficient and effective at making calls and meeting your numbers.

You can develop a ritual to support any change you want to make. Design it so that it has sensory elements that are important to you and pleasing. The more pleasant you make the action, the more likely you are to adopt it as a lasting behavior. Make it as intricate as you like; just make it your own.

What areas of your life could be positively impacted by creating your own ritual?

Photo credit: AlicePopkorn / Foter.com / CC BY

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