Commentary

July 31, 2014

Quality of rituals determines quality of life

Chief Master Sgt. Stuart Allison
509th Mission Support Group

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. (AFNS) — Over the last year I’ve been on a quest to identify and highlight simple success strategies that, if followed, will increase career success.

Where does one start on the path to becoming successful?

Some would say, “habits,” but it goes farther than that. Habits are repeatable actions that we don’t think about. Rituals are actions embedded with meaning.

It’s the quality of our rituals that determines the quality of our lives.

When our actions have turned into habits, we’ve forgotten their meaning. There’s nothing wrong with this for good habits. But for bad ones, it’s why we are stuck in those ruts. We don’t reflect and don’t realize that we need to change.

Rituals go a step beyond habits. They ask you to reflect. Is this a good habit? What does this habit mean to me? How will this make me a more effective as a leader? We can’t just go through the motions. If we do, we stay in one place and the world passes us by.

Success is not guaranteed, but if you care about the quality of your rituals then your chances at success increase.

I deliberately set and maintain three rituals to stay grounded in a hectic world.

1. I practice gratitude and maintain perspective. I start and end each day with thinking, “What am I most grateful for? What will challenge me today and how will I grow? What did I learn from what happened today? How can I notice what is right (rather than wrong) about a situation?” You can express it out loud, think it to yourself, or write it down in a journal.

2. I take care of my body. It does not matter how I am feeling or what the weather is doing outside. I make the time and exercise without excuse. I know days will be stressful and I plan for them. I will get extra sleep knowing that being well rested will provide me the mental edge I need for any challenge.

3. I take care of my mind. I read every day. I enjoy motivational books but stretch myself to read other types of nonfiction and fiction novels. It’s relaxing and I’m able to see situations from multiple perspectives.

These rituals work for me and they may work for you, but it is better for you to decide your own rituals. Choose ones that work for you; choose ones with meaning for you.

But know, in the end, you are not simply creating new habits.

In order to help you turn this commentary into your reality there are three steps you must first take to help you get clarity on your rituals, vehicles and game plan!

1. Your vision: You will need to identify your mission, purpose and passions. Take some time and answer the following questions. The answers may not come to you right away. Wrestle with them until you can answer each in one single true sentence.

- Mission: What is the most important thing that you want to achieve in your life?

- Purpose: Why is your mission important? Who will it affect?

- Passions: What are your passions and are they aligned with your purpose and mission? If not, how can you better align all three?

2. The vehicles: Next, brainstorm a list of all the “rituals” you can use to live your mission, purpose and passions on a daily basis. From this list, choose only three. Why three? You want to start out small but still have enough change in your life to see an effect.

3. The game plan: Decide on a plan to implement each one. It takes around 30 days for a new action to become habitual. Choose one of the rituals for your list and create a strategy to remind yourself to do it daily. One method, used by Jerry Seinfeld, is to put up a large wall calendar. Each day that you successfully do your daily ritual, put a red “X” on that day. Keep doing this with the goal of never breaking the chain of red “Xs.” Once your chain is at least one month long, start implementing your next ritual.

Meaningful rituals, rooted in positive self-improvement are one of the key pillars of success. Upon the development and application of your vision, the vehicles and your game plan, you will develop the pathway to creating these new rituals, increasing the quality of your life.




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(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Grant)

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