What do Simon Cowell, Warren Buffett, Brad Pitt, Colin Farrell, Serena Williams and English soccer star Leighton Baines all have in common? They incorporate rituals into their lives to help them be at the top of their game. Simon Cowell climbs trees, Warren Buffett plays bridge 12 hours a week, Serena Williams bounces the ball exactly five times before every serve, Brad Pitt wears a shark tooth necklace and Leighton Baines reties his shoes before each match.
These rituals are not religious, they're not superstition, and they're not habits. These are conscious, intentional actions you choose to make habitual because they improve your life.
As I describe in the book I cowrote with Janet Bray Attwood, there are seven key aspects to rituals. You can incorporate any or all of them into your own personal, everyday routine to create a life that is truly rich and rewarding.
Effective rituals include conscious intention. That means consciously stating what you choose to create.
Ritual practice: A simple way to use intention is take a few minutes before you get up in the morning to set your intention for the day. You could adopt Ben Franklin's daily ritual asking, “What good will I do today?" and every night before retiring ask, “What good did I do today?"
2. Preparation and purification
Preparation for your ritual allows for a deeper experience of life. This could be as simple as cleaning the area where you're going to do your ritual.
Ritual practice: One of the most important rituals you can perform is clearing the remains of past relationships. This one is from Arielle Ford, author of The Soulmate Secret. Write a letter to each of your past lovers. Tell them what you loved about them, and what you couldn't stand. Let loose any remaining resentment, bitterness, feelings of betrayal, or abandonment. When you honestly and truthfully can, at the bottom write, “I love you and I forgive you."
This is a great symbolic way of letting go of all the "gunk" from the past and it will open you up mentally and emotionally to receive the person you are meant to be with.
3. Use of symbols
Symbols help connect you to what matters to you. Symbols could be of photos of your family, a mentor, teachers or spiritual leaders who have had a big impact on you, or a poem that is particularly meaningful.
Ritual practice: Create a sacred place in your home with symbols that are important to you. Use symbols to reinforce what you choose to create in your life.
4. Activating the senses
Ceremonial rituals engage all the senses. For your daily rituals, including some flowers, scented oils, special music, and even a beautiful scarf or cloth can add richness and engage your mind, body, emotions, and spirit in the ritual.
Ritual practice: Each day take a few minutes to pick some flowers, or branch of pine, or lavender, or some other aromatic plant and place them in your ritual space. This simple daily ritual will get you outside (even in the winter), give you a few moments to enjoy nature, fresh air, and reinvigorate your whole physiology.
5. Prescribed performance
Traditional rituals always have a sequence and an order to them. By laying out the exact sequence the mind and body become habituated to performing the ritual until the performance no longer requires your conscious engagement. This is when the mind will transcend thinking to experience your spiritual core.
Ritual Practice: Some of the easiest rituals to implement are meal rituals. Start with a song, a prayer, or other expression of gratitude. Invite family members to share something that happened in the day that they're thankful for. After the meal take 10 to 15 minutes as a family for inspiration, to discuss a difficult moment any member had during the day and get support, or to play a game.
The repetitive nature of a ritual is another tool that helps the mind, body, and emotions transcend thinking and experience the deeper, inner layers of awareness. Repeating a ritual daily also creates a rhythm to your life.
Ritual practice: One of the easiest ways to use repetition as an everyday ritual is to use the ritual to become present at important moments. For example, you can tap the center of your palm a precise number of times when it's critical that you're focused and paying attention.
7. Invoking the unseen
Rituals are a way to tap into the unseen part of life and gain support for your activities.
Ritual Practice: After setting your intention for the day when you wake up, include a statement like, “This or something better" or “I'm open to support from wherever it may come."
Everyday rituals don't have to take a lot of time. They can be easy and fun. They add richness and a feeling purposefulness to your day. To get a taste of how powerful rituals can be for your own life, check out Your Hidden Riches.
Cowritten with Janet Bray Attwood