“We are what we repeatedly do.” ~Aristotle
This past spring, I found myself floundering—stuck within an alternating cycle of feeling either overwhelmed or paralyzed.
The combination of creative tasks and deadlines typically drives me with a strong sense of purpose and fulfillment. However, though I had both curriculum to produce and blog posts to write, I struggled to form sentences.
Instead of filling pages with words and ideas, I consoled myself by eating chocolate and watching lots of bad TV.
Needless to say, none of this was any help in boosting my productivity or pulling me out of the doldrums. It’s probably better not to discuss what it did to my waistline!
When my partner’s business sent him to Europe for almost a month, I tagged along. I announced to my readers that I would be taking a modified digital sabbatical. Each morning, as my partner headed off to work, I headed out to nearby cafes armed with a pen and little notebook.
As I put my thoughts to paper, I realized that I wasn’t depressed. The real truth was that I had fallen into a series of bad habits: email before meditation, vegging in front of the TV instead of riding my bike, and lunches at restaurants instead of healthy, homemade lunches.
I had totally forsaken one of the key tenets of living a life that I love: if you want an extraordinary life, you must have equally extraordinary routines and rituals.
So often we feel stuck because we’re allowing life to simply happen around us. We feel overwhelmed because we are trying to squeeze as much as possible into each day, usually without a plan of any sort.
We are stuck in habits that exacerbate our feelings of stagnation, and we allow our feelings of being overwhelmed to paralyze us.
So, what is that we need? The twin powers of routine and ritual. Nourishing and supportive routines help frame our lives. Rituals remind us of our own sacredness, our desire to connect with our core, and our relationship with our higher power.
The word “routine” can seem incredibly stiff and boring, but good routines are neither.
Rather than stifling your creativity, routines are about managing your energy effectively in order to channel it toward your real desires and purpose.
Our daily actions are what create our life, so by creating nourishing and supportive routines, we are choosing to fuel our days and nourish our spirits.
We all need daily time-outs, an excuse to stop and take a moment to celebrate, connect, honor and recognize the different aspects of our lives. This is where ritual comes in.
Rituals offer us compassionate discipline where we focus our attention and energy on achieving a certain feeling. They will ground us regardless of what’s happening around us.
Extraordinary routines require minimum engagement in order to let us achieve productive results. Rituals are celebratory, meaningful, and require us to be completely engaged—even if it’s only for two minutes.
When I came home from Europe, the first thing I did was to reestablish nourishing routines and rituals, thereby creating structure, support, and full-on moments of being. I realized very quickly that solid morning and bedtime routines formed parenthesis around my day. This seemingly simple change in my day-to-day living has altered my world.
I’m more productive, more creative, and feeling incredibly grounded. My sense of drive and purpose has returned to me with an underlying feeling of peacefulness.
Nearly every person I talk to says that the way she starts her day sets a tone for the whole day. Our morning routines set the tone for productivity, and our morning rituals give us a daily check-in with how we want to feel, and who we want to be.
So, what should you include in your morning routine?
Choose actions that create an environment of order and support. Simple chores like unloading the dishwasher and clearing the kitchen counters don’t just minimize disorder; they also leave your energy available to help you create and strategize rather than merely reacting.
Similarly, nothing can derail your day like skipping a part of your morning routine. Even something as basic as making the bed every morning gives your brain an important message: the old day is over, and today is a fresh, clean slate.
Creating your morning ritual can be just as simple: just turn some of your regular morning tasks—showering, for example, or making coffee—into a time of reflection.
Even transforming the most mundane activity can be a way to choose how you want to feel, to honor your soul, and to show respect for your spirit.
One of my daily rituals is making my first cup of coffee. I gently spoon raw, brown sugar into my favorite cup with a tiny coffee spoon, pour in freshly ground and brewed coffee, and add just the right amount of cream. Then I stir, sip, and savor before I move into the rest of my day, having honored my truest self, and brought the celebration of being and awareness into my day.
I also spend a few moments each morning in prayer and meditation, and writing in my journal—activities that never fail to connect me with my core and remind me of my sacred place in the world.
More powerful than any morning habits, however, are our bedtime routines and rituals.
Bedtime routines allow us to close out our current day as well as stage the coming one. The elements of your routine should be personal to you, but I recommend that they include both self-care (brushing your teeth, washing your face, moisturizing your skin) and preparation for the coming day (choosing your outfit, reviewing your appointments, and staging your bag and keys near the door).
Your bedtime ritual, on the other hand, is a time to focus on connection, reflection, and celebration.
Regardless of how much you did (or didn’t) accomplish that day, each evening is an opportunity to reconnect with yourself, your desires, and even your partner. Connecting with our loved ones is a vital component of creating a life we’re in love with.
For me, an important evening ritual is sharing dinner with my partner. We light candles, play great music, and re-connect after our day apart.
This ritual of sharing a good meal in an atmosphere of love is one of my favorite parts of the day. After our post-dinner clean-up, I take time to set up the coffee pot for the next morning, and do as much prep as possible for next day’s lunch.
Later, after my own self-care, I write in my gratitude journal, both to remind myself what I’m thankful for, as well as to record the highlights of the day. Finally, I take a few moments to still my mind with prayer or meditation.
Even if I’ve had a bad day, these rituals help me fall asleep feeling peaceful, beautiful, and loved.
Adding small rituals of opening and closure to our days gives tremendous value to our minds and souls. You’ll know you’re created good routines if you can put them on autopilot and still get results. Good rituals will be evident in how peaceful your heart feels.
As you establish these routines and rituals into your days, don’t be too rigid. I personally create white space in my schedule to allow the serendipitous spirit of spontaneity into my world.
I fully recognize that it’s possible to get stuck even in good routines. The routines that work now may not be as productive next week. Dreams and desires are ever-changing, so as you continue to grow and stretch yourself, your routines and rituals will grow and stretch as well.
Empowering routines, along with loving rituals, are essential ingredients in the recipe for living a daily life that I love. By creating your own rituals and routines, you’ll be taking the first steps to creating your own recipe.
Photo by wwootton1