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Redefining Rituals

This comment on my last post prompted me to explain what I meant by “rituals.”

Hey Aaron, that is a very interesting twist on time management. I like the idea of it being ritualistic. Where you thinking because of the repetitiveness of the tasks or do you think there is some symbolic value? Maybe the value is completing the task? Below is what Wikipedia defines as a ritual:

“A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. It may be prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community…”

What I meant by “rituals” was basically “habits.” My waking up early every morning to work on my personal projects really has little symbolic value. The value I find in it is practical – it allows me to successfully knock out a large chunk of time on these projects early, when I have fresh energy and a clear mind. A habit of always beginning my day on time and on task helps me to accomplish far more than if I were to begin my day by planning when I would work.

In The Power of Full Engagement, Loehr and Schwartz say, “A growing body of research suggests that as little as 5 percent of our behaviors are consciously self-directed. We are creatures of habit and as much as 95 percent of what we do occurs automatically or in reaction to a demand or an anxiety.” (Loehr & Schwartz, 2003, p 166). Take a look at the previous post’s introductory quote that says, “I find on days when it’s hard to concentrate that packing up my bag and heading to the library is a good fix.” This ritual, or habit, is indeed a “good fix.” It seems to occur automatically (they know they need to get work done) and in reaction to an anxiety (an inability to concentrate). Likewise, my habit of waking up early is automatic (after altering my internal clock), and in reaction to a demand – I want to get my projects done.

Loehr and Schwartz go on to define rituals, “What [some professional athletes understand] brilliantly and instinctively [is] the power of positive rituals – precise, consciously acquired behaviors that become automatic in our lives, fueled by a deep sense of purpose…They help us to insure that we effectively manage energy…They reduce the need to rely on our limited conscious will and discipline to take action. Finally, rituals are a powerful means by which to translate our values and priorities into action…” (Loehr & Schwartz, 2003, 166).

So, although these behaviors may be “fueled by a deep sense of purpose,” that does not necessarily mean that they are “performed mainly for their symbolic value,” as Wikipedia describes above. Symbolic value in rituals is mainly found in religious acts – such as when Korean Christians regularly wake up before dawn for morning prayer services. Rather, as Wikipedia’s “Ritual (disambiguation)” link (and multiple online dictionaries) states : “A ritual is [simply] the habitual performance of some action.” (“Ritual (disambiguation),” n.d.).

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

Ritual (disambiguation). (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved May 6, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ritual_(disambiguation)

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