One thing that I have observed about virtually all extraordinary people is that they have daily practices tied to mastering something important in their lives, and they do these rituals every day without exception. Jerry Seinfeld is famous for writing a new joke each day. So committed is he to this practice that he doesn’t care whether the joke is good or bad. He just says it’s crucial that you don’t “break the chain.” In other words, the habit of writing a new joke each day is non-negotiable.
Your physiology drives your emotional and energetic state, which in turn determines the meaning you give to your circumstances, and ultimately the actions you take and the results you get.
As powerful as daily rituals are, I’ve found the vast majority of people don’t have one. When I speak to large groups, I find that at most 2-3% of people maintain a consistent, daily practice. Even people who are convinced of the effectiveness of daily rituals struggle to adopt the habit. The reason I hear most often has to do with insufficient time. And this is understandable. Today, we are busier than ever. The idea of adding yet one more thing to our already overloaded schedules is unthinkable.
I want to offer a new way of thinking that will allow you to join the ranks of the exceptionally small percentage of people that consistently engage in a daily practice. If you choose to do so, it could change your life. Here are the three things you need to know to make this happen.
First, it doesn’t matter so much what you do in your daily practice.
What matters most is that you do it without exception. The act of doing something every single day in a non-negotiable way is, in and of itself, an act of an extraordinary person. This alone will begin to create a sense of congruence between your identity and an actual behavior that is consistent with that identity. Put another way, if you want to do anything extraordinary in life, you must believe with absolute certainty that you are a person capable of being extraordinary. The act of doing something daily will be evidence of your extraordinary identity.
Second, you have to give up the “I don’t have enough time” excuse.
A meaningful daily practice doesn’t need to be more than ten minutes (and it can be less). What I do, and what I coach the leaders I work with to do, is to simply wake up ten minutes earlier. If you normally wake up at 6:15 a.m., instead get up at 6:05. You now have a 10-minute block of time to do your daily ritual. It’s that simple.
Finally, figure out how to maximize that time.
This is up to you, but I always offer a few ground rules: A good practice typically has an element of self-reflection. It should contain some setting of intentions, and it’s valuable to include appreciation.
Here is what I do: I begin with a quick breathing exercise to prime my body for the day. Your physiology drives your emotional and energetic state, which in turn determines the meaning you give to your circumstances, and ultimately the actions you take and the results you get. Starting with the body (and in particular, the breath) is critical. I then find three things that I am thankful for. It can be a person, a situation, my health, etc. I then do a loving kindness meditation where I visualize a beam of light emitting from my heart and expanding in circles. I see it first in my home enveloping my family and then moving out in concentric circles to friends, family and colleagues until it covers all of the earth and beyond. As I’m doing this, I say to myself as I picture each loved one, “May you be loved, may you be safe, may you be happy, may you be healthy.” I move on to setting three specific intentions for the day, and end by opening my eyes and saying out loud my identity, my values and the one question that I ask repeatedly: “How can I appreciate and live life even more fully right now?” I finish with my arms in the air with a big smile on my face.
Starting every day with this practice, without exception, has changed my life. I hope it will help you do the same.