Rituals are the secret to productivity and working more effectively. Some of the most successful people around have morning rituals.
They can put all the small things of your life on autopilot, so that you can use your mind to focus on what’s important: creativity and problem solving.
Advice on what to include in rituals and routines is robust, but a framework is needed for their implementation. After studying and experimenting with productivity and effectiveness for years, I’ve put together one such framework for a morning routine. Use it to create the perfect, customized morning ritual that will work for you and be sustainable.
Many most popular artists, writers, entrepreneurs and masters have relied on a specific set of rituals. Study the person you look up to most and learn about his or her daily rituals. Consider these steps:
1. Identify a leverage point.
Identify the highest leverage action in your life, the big domino piece that makes everything else fall into place. Structure your ritual around making sure this one action absolutely happens.
For example, it might be waking up by 6 a.m. and meditating 20 minutes. Or perhaps you rely on a jog or yoga routine. Whatever it is, identify it and place utmost importance on completing this task each day.
2. Put the big domino first.
Once you’ve identified your highest leverage action from Step 1, make it one of the first things you do each morning. Your ritual should be based on supporting this new habit.
3. Write things down.
Have some fun with this and feel free to be creative. Use a piece of paper, create a simple document or just keep a habit checklist in the Coach.me app.
4. Begin with just three actions.
You already know what the most important piece of your ritual. Now just add two more items to the list of things you must do every single day.
5. Start simple and make it easy to succeed.
Flossing a tooth could be offered as example of a simple ritual. I think that’s too simplistic, but the point is to begin with a simple routine to ensure success.
6. Give it time.
While some subscribe to the notion that a habit takes 21 days to form, that may be a myth. Psychologist Jeremy Dean has found it could take 66 days to build a habit.
And a study by Phillippa Lally concluded, “The time it took participants to reach 95% of their asymptote of automaticity ranged from 18 to 254 days.” The truth is, people are different. Some individuals need no time at all and others may need more.
7. Nail it, then add new habits.
Once you master a routine, add on new habits to make your ritual more robust.
8. Be open to change.
Your rituals shouldn't be set in stone. Be open to adjusting and adapting your plan along the way as part of a dynamic process. Add a weekly review and planning ritual, a productivity secret of successful entrepreneurs.
After a while, you may find that you actually don't like yoga or jogging. You may discover how great you feel after drinking vegetable smoothies. Keeping your process dynamic means letting your ritual continuously evolve, which can be a good thing.
9. Don’t be discouraged by slipups.
Your ritual will give you power. The act of having a routine will become an addiction and at times you may feel superhuman because of it.
At other times you may feel lost after missing a step or neglecting your ritual. Stay strong, don’t beat yourself up and step back into it. Building a ritual is like building a muscle. All it takes is doing the workout again to revitalize the habit.
I suggest committing to performing the new ritual for at least 66 days. Make it a challenge. Ask a friend to help with accountability and use a positive or negative reinforcement technique to make the ritual stick. For example, treat yourself to something you’ve wanted once you complete the challenge.
As a bonus, use the extra momentum to work more effectively. You can become more productive throughout the day by making tiny changes in a multiplicity of ways.
Below is an outline of my personal routine:
Wake up at 5:00 a.m.
Hydrate by drinking a massive glass of water immediately.
Exercise with a 20-minute jog or a quick workout at home.
Take notes (do a brain dump) and plan the day.
Take a cold shower.
For breakfast, drink a green vegetable smoothie or juice and make coffee
Spend time learning for 30 minutes by reading a book, catching up on articles or listening to an audio program.
Will you create a morning ritual now? If you already have one, what’s in your routine?
I am about to reveal the greatest self-defense weapon known to mankind. A weapon you have in your possession right now. A weapon that cannot be taken away from you. A weapon that never grows dull or runs out of ammunition. A weapon you can take on board an airplane without a permit. A weapon you can walk up to even the President with. What is it?
That’s not what you wanted to hear, is it? You wanted me to say something like your mind is the greatest self-defense weapon, or pepper spray, or a flame-thrower. Allow me to explain…
In case you haven’t heard, smiling has been proven to–
Okay, okay–that’s all well and good, but what the heck does it have to do with self-defense? I’ll tell you. Take a step back for a second and really consider what the term “self-defense” means. Self-defense is more than just what to do if someone tries to rob your wallet.
Self-defense is the struggle to be at your best against anything and everything that would rob you of your health, happiness, comfort, or well-being.
Yep. Self-defense is a full-time project. Your eating habits, exercise habits, relationships, work life, attitude… neglect any one of those things and you can expose yourself to unnecessary stress, pain, humiliation, or danger. Washing your hands is self-defense against germs. Reading reviews is self-defense against getting ripped off.
Everything you do, every choice you make, is either going to make you safer, stronger, and happier, or make you more vulnerable to disaster.
Nothing is more powerful than a smile in defending yourself from the ills of this world in all of their many forms, or more helpful in chasing down and seizing a healthy, happy life.
Your smile is your greatest self-defense weapon. But you can’t just tell someone to smile, can you? What if you’re not in the mood? Or maybe you feel you have no reason to smile.
Be careful, my friends. Waiting around for a reason to smile, or for something to make your life better, is a lousy strategy for a happy life. It means you view smiling as a reaction to life, and never an action to take. And that’s a mistake. Just like a gun is of no use to you if it’s at home under your bed when you need it, your smile is powerless to help you if you keep it hidden away.
You need it now. Right now.
The same goes for money. You know saving money is a good idea. But do you wait around until you have a reason to save money? No. It’s always a good idea to save money. You save money because you know at some point, sooner or later, you’ll want to have money to spend on something.
Same for smiling. It’s always a good idea to smile. Even if you don’t feel like it, even if you don’t have a reason. You should smile because at some point, you’re going to want to be healthy, relaxed, and attractive. Heck–not just at some point—at every point! When don’t you want to be healthy, relaxed, and attractive?
Here’s the good news– putting on a smile – even a fake one—will make you feel like smiling for real. That’s a fact. It’s how we’re wired. So, fake it till you make it, my friend.
Okay. So, if all that’s true, why don’t you see more people smiling? Why are so many people hunched over, dragging themselves around, moping… even on a good day?
Put a number on it. Look around the gym, the office, or the supermarket–what percentage of people do you see smiling? Would you say more than half are smiling or less? Would you say 20%… 10%… 5%? Whatever your count, it sure ain’t a lot, is it?
I understand that just because you don’t see people smiling that doesn’t mean they’re not happy. Maybe they’re all neutral. But neutral means they’re neither happy nor unhappy—you know, like a plant. Or a rock. Or a robot. Is that how you want to live? Aren’t you more than a plant or a rock or a robot?
Quick question. What is your “base face”? That’s the term I use to refer to how someone looks most of the day. Their default countenance, if you will. Think of someone you know. Anyone. Now imitate them. What does your face look like? That’s their base face.
Of course, the more important question is: If someone imitates you, what expression would they put on their face? Would it be a smile? A furrowed brow? Neutral? Serious? Grumpy?
What’s your base face?
No one wants to be remembered as mean and grumpy, but look around…it’s a sea of ugly faces out there! Why are so many people dead-set against smiling? Everyone is more attractive when they smile, yet look how many choose not to. It’s a disease, I tell you! We are suffering from an epidemic of ugly faces!
Here’s how bad it is. Remember that time you offered someone a smile… and they didn’t smile back? And you immediately felt like a moron? Maybe you even considered never smiling at anyone again?
Stop it! That’s how the disease spreads. Don’t let the grumps and the zombies disarm you. Don’t let someone else’s insecurities and fears strip you of your greatest self-defense weapon. Don’t be sucked into thinking that smiling is a sign of weakness.
Smiling is a sign of confidence and courage. Smiling takes guts. And you can do it. If you want a healthy, happy life, you must!
Why aren’t more people smiling? I theorize that people take pride in appearing like they’re working hard. There is social value in being seen struggling.
Smiling makes things look too easy. You’re not supposed to enjoy your work. You’re supposed to look miserable and stressed out, right? I mean, everyone else is whining and complaining, so you should, too, right?
No way. Not even close. We should all be smart enough to know that enjoying our work makes our work better. Joy is a productive emotional state. Repulsion, denial, bitterness, anger, and frustration will all separate you from the task at hand. Joy will connect you to your work, your relationships, and yourself more deeply and effectively than anything else.
Here’s another reason why you don’t see more smiles, and it’s a big one, especially in the martial arts– anger feels powerful. It feels good. It wakes you up. It gets the blood and adrenaline flowing. Anger feels like you’re taking control.
Look at children. When they feel like they’re not in control, they throw a tantrum. They stamp their feet, scream, and cross their arms.
As adults, most of us outgrow throwing full-blown tantrums, but that doesn’t mean we’ve learned how to smile when life tries to knock us down. Instead, we learn to endure. We tighten our lips, furrow our brow, and plod through our daily routine. But holding on to our disappointment and frustration only puts us on track for a heart attack.
Thankfully, there is another alternative to tantrums or enduring…it’s called smiling.
Is it really possible to walk around in a state of joy or quiet confidence no matter what happens? Can you permanently install an iron-clad smile on your face and in your heart?
I say yes. Not as a sappy, rainbow colored-dream, but as a purposeful strategy to get the most out of your life.
If you could give yourself a 10% raise in salary, you would do it. Well, you have the power to give yourself a psychological, emotional, and physical raise right now–just smile. It’s tax-free and there’s no cap on it.
Joy and anger are both heightened emotional states. Either one can make you more capable of enduring pain, pushing harder, and feeling stronger. But there’s a crucial difference between anger and joy–anger leads to tension, shallow breathing, and inflexibility of body and mind.
Joy, on the other hand, leads to relaxation, flexibility, and openness. You can see, you can think, you can breathe, you can flow. Those qualities are always advantages. Always. Even in a fight.
Bruce Lee warned about tension and anger in the Tao of Jeet Kune Do. He wrote:
“[The mind of a student in actual combat] must be calm and not at all disturbed. He must feel as if nothing critical is happening. …His eyes not fixed and glaring insanely at the enemy. His behavior should not be in any way different from his everyday behavior.”
You may also remember heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson. Iron Mike was famous for fierce knockouts, fierce words, and the occasional nibble on an ear. Here’s what Kid Dynamite said about happiness:
“There’s nothing more deadly and nothing more proficient than a happy fighter.”
Did you get that? Nothing more deadly or more proficient.He went on to say that it’s not “the mean and the surly fighter” who’s dangerous, it’s the fighter who’s the most relaxed and who loves what he does.
See? I told you—feeling joyful or happy is no joke. It’s your greatest shield and self-defense weapon. And you polish them both by smiling.
Despite the wisdom of Bruce and Mike, the world of martial arts is still full of ugly faces. Look on the cover of any martial arts magazine, or poster promoting a fight, or a fight on TV, and you’ll see someone scowling, snarling, or screaming.
I get it—they’re trying to look fierce and powerful…even scary. But the way I see it, they look like children throwing tantrums. They look like they’re trying to convince themselves they’re tough and in control.
They think they’re getting focused and building strength, but really, they’re only half-right. Yes, they may be in a more powerful state than someone lying on the couch watching TV, but not more than the guy who is calm, attentive, and quietly confident. That guy doesn’t have to sell you on his competence. You just feel it.
I’m a big fan of quiet confidence. The most successful and capable people I know, in any field, don’t beat their chest and snarl like wild animals. Quite the opposite. They’re usually quiet. Serene, even. They don’t worry and whine and make work look like drudgery. They just get things done.
So, how do you go from being fearful and tense to cool and collected? How do you find a smile even when everyone around is miserable? Practice. You don’t wait around for a reason to smile, you simply take action and make yourself happy.
Get started today. Right now. If you can only manage to force an inward or secret smile, fine. Maybe tomorrow it turns into a smirk… then a grin. Before you know it, you’ll have a full-blown, open-mouthed, happy smile.
Be an ambassador of good will, of confidence, of comfort. Take pride in carrying that spirit into every room and into every relationship. My first hope for anyone is to be a fighter. But not an angry fighter--I want you to be a happy fighter.
Happy because you have confronted your fears, embraced your experiences, made peace with your limitations, polished your skills, and accepted life on its terms, both good and bad.
When you do all of that, you will feel the tension disappear. You will feel lighter. You will have more room in your mind to see things you’ve never seen before. You will have more room in your heart to forgive others and forgive yourself. You will hold on to less bitterness, usher out resentment, and welcome in more love.
Sure, all that sounds corny, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Love is more powerful than hate. It really is. And joy is more powerful than anger.
I think it’s fair to say when you’re old and gray, you’ll look back on your life and laugh about almost everything. Even the things that hurt you today. So, why wait till you’re old and gray to laugh? See the big picture now.
Get to your happy ending sooner than later so you can enjoy it longer.
Create a new “base face”. Soon, when people think of you, they’ll smile because that’s the memory you left with them.
Before you see another doctor, pop another pill, lift another weight, drink another mojito, try another diet, try this prescription:
Smile once a day, as soon as you wake up, and keep smiling, no matter what, till you go to sleep.
Do that seven days a week, for the rest of your life. It’s all-natural, organic, and absolutely free.
If that dosage seems a little high, try some physical therapy. Smile four times–that’s four reps–every time you leave your home, every time you step out of your car, and every time you’re about to meet someone. Every day.
Pump up the power of your smile. Get it in your veins. Get high on smiling. Get addicted to smiling.
Final thought. If you want to help build a happier, more peaceful world, you don’t need to start a charity, you need to start smiling. You don’t need to raise a million dollars, you need to raise the corners of your mouth.
Be brave. Be the first to smile.
Be a smile leader and you’ll not only change your life, you might just change the world.
Can you find the Other Corners?
By Michael Rowe
Last year I visited Japan for duty with the Navy Reserve Component. I had other plans as well I wanted to experience some more martial arts training in Japan. I have been training in Hapkido for almost 30 years and I wanted to spend some time with its sister art in Japan, Aikido. In 2016 I had a chance to spend a few hours training at the Aikido Hombu Dojo and meet with the current Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba. I was hoping to get a greater level of training this year.
When I arrived in Japan I checked into the base recieved my housing assignement and checked into the job. As I expected there was going to be an amazing amount of time that I could travel from Yokosuka to Tokyo to visit the Hombu Dojo. After checking in at the Aikiki Dojo I changed into my gi and placed my white belt around my waist. The sensei of the Dojo did remember me from my previous visit from last year and recongized I was not a total beginner but they wanted to go through the paces. Being that I know that Aikido and Hapkido both have the same root there are some simliarities but there are going to be major differences. I was give the task of demonstrating and practicing Ik Kyu the first fundamental teaching of Aikido. We call it simply the straight arm bar.
While I felt that I had done an satisfactory job presenting the teaching from the variety of attacks presented, but the Doshu thought differently. He told me to work on one particular movement of the technique – it was a bit too much muscle and needed move relaxation. I bowed and then prepared to continue with the technique.
I worked on the technique very hard against many variations of attacks: same side wrist grabs, cross wrist grabs, lapel grabs. double wrist grabs from the front and rear, and punch as wel. I practiced what was presented to me for correction for about ten minutes when I noticed that Doshu was on the other side of the dojo, giving instruction to another student.
I chose to continue to to practice the technique even though I have been practing the technique for almost 30 years already. I did it for almost an half hour, my gi was was soaked with sweat. After more than an hour’s worth of repeating the same fundamental technique, one of the senpai (senior students) came over and told me to demonstrate Ni Kyu - the second teaching.
So this is how it went for the basic 5 teachings of Aikido that we covered that day. My arms were lead, my legs were shaking, I could barely change and get down the stairs, walk to the train and get back to base. But I was back in the Dojo training the next day. Something about the intensitiy appealed to me.
Now, I will walk away from my students while they are working on a particular form or technique – just to see what they’ll do. Most of them will continue to practice what they were told. A few will walk over to me to ask what they should do and some discontinue practicing as they begin to talk and socialize with their classmates. This seems to happen regardless if the students are children, teens, or adults.
It has been said that if a teacher shows the student one corner, the student should be able to find the other three. If he cannot (or will not), then the teacher should leave him alone because he’s simply a waste of time.
Grandmaster Pak and Grandmaster Pellegrini both would often show me a particular technique or an aspect of a technique or form and then see what I did with it. Would I simply forgot whatever it was that was shown to me? Would I practice it on my own time, striving to improve my performance? Would I simply fool around and play with the technique, perhaps ask for constant guidance on if I was doing it right? Or would I train at the school, and at home in my free time the teaching presented? Would I refine it and make it my personal expression of movement?
One thing I figured out was that the teacher was always watching and evaluating. Oh sure they would talk with us and joke now and then but they were always calculating. Would I be one that they would teach the real material too? Could I find not only the four corners of the room, but all the entrances and exits? Was I worth teaching the real methods to?
So what are you gong to do to find the corners?