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Put Energy Into Action with Rituals

One of my classmates wrote this in a discussion of ours:

“I have always been great at setting a work plan, but it’s never easy to stick to it. I find on days when it’s hard to concentrate that packing up my bag and heading to the library is a good fix. There is no TV or video games; of course there is always Facebook wherever my computer goes, but I have the willpower to overcome the urge to update my status every 5 minutes.”

This is true. Setting up a plan or schedule is always much easier (and fun) than actually sticking to it. That’s why, as I illustrated in an earlier post, rituals – as the authors of The Power of Full Engagement put it – are incredibly important: “The sustaining power of rituals comes from the fact that they conserve energy.” (Loehr & Schwartz, 2003, p 169). If I have a task that needs to be completed and I stop to think about all the ins-and-outs of that task, I find that I waste much of my time and energy in thought and I don’t put forth my full force of effort and energy into the task at hand.

Thinking about what to eat for a meal illustrates my point nicely. If I start to think, “Hmm, what do I want for lunch?” I can debate with myself endlessly before finally deciding on a plan (and then it takes another 15 minutes or so to actually do it). That’s not to say that planning isn’t important – it is – but it should be done ahead of time, so that when the moment of truth comes, I can put my energy into action rather than thinking about my action. Loehr and Schwartz go on to say, “In contrast to will and discipline, which imply pushing ourselves to action, a well-defined ritual pulls us. We feel somehow worse if we don’t do it.” (p 169). In my case, waking up 2 or 3 hours before going to work is a great ritual for me to put in some time on my personal projects. If I don’t wake up early and spend my first hours and energy doing something productive, I feel terribly lazy.

Avoid Distractions

Contrast that with entertainment, “TV or video games” and Facebook. This is one area where I have a high potential for problems. I have a very focused mind, and my personality is such that I can easily get sucked into whatever it is I’m doing for hours at a time. If I turn on the TV or game machine, I’m likely to sit there for hours, ignore all other tasks and get sucked into entertainment. The first time I began a new Facebook game, I spent hours each day on it. For me, the latest and greatest is always the most distracting. TV is likewise incredibly distracting. Things I’ve seen before on TV don’t grab my attention as much as say, a new episode of The Daily Show, but nevertheless, moving images on a screen always divide my focus. It is for that reason that I don’t own a TV, and my game system sits in a bag on my bookshelf. And as far as Facebook is concerned, my morning ritual of waking early to devote my first and best energy to my projects keeps my mind away from that playground. After all, I know I can get on at lunch.

What about You?

Are you easily distracted? Do you think too much about certain tasks and then wonder why you spent so long thinking, and not long enough doing? How do you focus and get to the task at hand?


Loehr, Jim & Schwartz, Tony. (2003). The Power of Full Engagement. New York: The Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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