At the top of 2018, I decided to take an intentionally different approach to the year. I resisted my impulse to set goals or create a word for the year or do anything that remotely sniffed of resolution making. (As an action-oriented lady, this resistance took some effort!) In past years, I might have told myself, if my gut is telling me to go there, why not go there already?! But this year I was choosing a different way. Because this year I recognized that I was mistaking some bad habits for my gut or intuition.
In December, when I was exhausted (again) and sick (again), I realized that something was going to have to give. When I stepped back to think about how I had ended up in this place (again), I noticed a pattern. I had moments in the year where I naturally took a pause to reset – setting goals in January, getting outdoors when the weather warms in Spring, taking vacation over the summer. I was aware of these pauses – even proud of them. What I had been missing is that my moments of pause were also catalysts for lengthy periods of sprinting. I would take the pause and then dive headfirst into running towards the goals or ideas that the pause had inspired. It’s like my engine only had two speeds. Stop and 100 MPH.
So in January I chose rituals over resolutions. I wanted to focus in on actions that would really serve me throughout the whole year. The first thing I did when I started out this month was to acknowledge a simple truth that had been bubbling up in the recesses of my mind. I believe that when we focus on our wellbeing first, the results will follow. Despite this belief, I observed that I continually feel called to work hard – even when my wellbeing is sometimes sacrificed. My programming was telling me to work hard, but my spirit was acknowledging there is an easier way. I approached my rituals theme with a desire to keep this idea front and center and not get lost in my past work-hard tendencies.
Rituals in their most simple form are those activities that we do consistently without thinking. It’s like a uniform for our actions. We don’t even think about what we are going to “wear” – we just do it. If you are curious to learn more about why I chose rituals as my January theme, checkout Episode 76 of my Design Yourself podcast. In this episode, I also share 9 Steps to Create Your Own Rituals. 5 weeks later, here is my slimmed down 5 step version of How to Create Rituals that Serve You.
How to Create Rituals that Will Serve You
See what rituals you already have in place
The biggest surprise for me this month was to see how many “rituals” I already had unconsciously had in place. The word rituals tends to conjure up candles and burning sage, but by defining rituals as the things we do unconsciously without thinking, a whole list of pedestrian activities came into focus for me. By seeing with a fresh perspective what I actually do every day, I was able to rethink what was working for me and what wasn’t. We can’t change what we don’t see, so this was a very necessary starting point.
Weed out the rituals that don’t serve you
I was a little surprised by just how many things I do unconsciously that undermine my desire for wellness and results. For example, I observed early in the month that when I walked through the front door, I dropped all of my belongings at the front door. I did this almost without fail without ever thinking about it. The reason is simple. I usually come through the front door with full hands and often with my sweet little ones in tow. Dropping the diaper bag and purse and lap top bag feels like a relief. But what this unconscious ritual created was a figurative and literal block. There was a confusing mess of stuff that I often never returned to until a day or two had passed and the pile inevitably had grown in the meantime. (My ritual was clearly inspiring my husband and kids to follow suit.)
Appreciate the rituals that do serve you
I was a little surprised by just how many things I do unconsciously that undermine my desire for wellness and results. For example, I observed early in the month that when I walked through the front door, I dropped all of my belongings at the front door. I did this almost without fail without ever thinking about it. The reason is simple. I usually come through the front door with full hands and often with my sweet little ones in tow. Dropping the diaper bag and purse and lap top bag feels like a relief. But what this unconscious ritual created was a figurative and literal block. There was a confusing mess of stuff that I often never returned to until a day or two had passed and the pile inevitably had grown in the meantime. (My ritual was clearly inspiring my husband and kids to follow suit.) Now when we walk through front door, each member of my family takes care to put each item away. (And yes, this new ritual has also inspired us to make sure that any item we bring into the house and choose to keep has a spot where is can go.)
Assess if their are any gaps
Once we have cleared away the rituals that are not working and appreciated those that are, it’s time to determine if there is anything missing. I found it helpful to just notice (without judgement!) if there were any places in my days where I found myself hitting resistance or simply feeling a lack of ease – places where I was relying on working hard. Two spots immediately jumped out in my days. In the morning I was feeling out of alignment in my morning routine with my kiddos. I’m a very early riser (hello 5am, nice to see you again) and I really love embracing the quiet of that hour or so that I have to myself. I often write or read or simply reflect on the day ahead. That part works for me. But then my kids wake up and I noticed that I was having trouble in the transition. Similarly when my sweet littles head off to school and daycare, I was feeling a sense of urgency about getting back to work that I could tell neither felt good nor led to high impact productivity.
Add in 1-2 new rituals, if needed
When you think about rituals, are you like me? Is adding something new the first place your mind goes? After meditating on this topic of rituals for over a month, let me be very clear. New rituals are the very last place to go. And only add something if it really speaks to what’s needed right now, in this moment. My (always growing!) awareness of my desire to add – even when I’m inspired by Marie Kondo and Bea Johnson and all the minimalism and all the zero waste living. Adding is the default. So if you choose to add a new ritual, embrace it with ease and simplicity. For me, I’ve embraced NOT turning on overhead lights in the kitchen in the morning (#weedoutfirst) and instead I’ve created a ritual of lighting a candle. The candle is beautiful and inviting. I didn’t buy anything new for this ritual. I used what was already there and the impact has been high. I’m more inclined to sit down with my kids and eat together. It reminds me to go slower. And not take myself too seriously. (Like those few times when my sweet 5 year old has told me to please blow out the candle already.)
Though I was aware that transitioning back into work was another trouble spot in my day, I decided not to add a ritual. Instead I decided to practice nonjudgemental awareness of the impulse and invite in a greater sense of wellness and ease into my day. I decided to take one step in this direction early in the month and go running for the first time in well over a year. It felt great. Sure I was slow and it was cold, but I appreciated the movement and how it made me feel after – alive and beautifully imperfect. I ran into a neighbor shorty after and, still aglow from the workout, we got to talking about running. The result: We are now running twice a week together in the predawn dark. And so slowly, the possibility of a new ritual emerges.
Design Myself 2018 Challenge: You can hear all about the origin of this challenge in this podcast. Here’s the quick summary. I am committed to bringing a thoughtful, intentional approach to how I lead my own life this year. My objective is to close of 2018 with a sense of gratitude, wellness and accomplishment. I don’t want to trade off getting things done – I love to get things done! – but I do want to slow my pace and get out of my own way. The Design Myself 2018 Challenge is a fun way for me to do just that.
Boundaries provide a creative container for how I can approach any project. For this challenge, I choose a theme for each month and introduce it on the first podcast episode of the month. This theme provides a framework for how I will approach the month in actions and mindset. Though I’ve got some ideas for what may come, I have not preset the monthly themes as I am learning as I go and adjusting my path accordingly. As I consider what theme will follow I am committed to reflecting on what I’ve learned. I share those reflections in my monthly newsletter and on the blog. You can follow along with all these design myself posts.