Just as every pivot is different, so is each pivoter’s ritual. Some people meditate, and others choose simple, quiet contemplation.
Whereas you might begin your ritual with a morning run, another person might begin his or hers with journaling and a cup of tea.
In order for a ritual to work, though, you need to do it consistently. That’s why the best rituals have common elements.
Rituals have a morning component. I won’t insist that you become an early bird, but consider this: The easiest way to preserve a ritual and protect it from the world around you is to do it first. The morning is the one time of day when you can truly control your time. You may want to place some parts of your ritual in the evening or spread them throughout the day, but if you want to be sure something happens, the best time to do it is when you wake up.
Although I do some things, such as journaling, before bed at night, much of his ritual happens in the morning, before the events of the day can snatch the time away from him.
Rituals are scheduled. The philanthropist Michael Milken is a successful entrepreneur. In the late 1980s, a former teacher of mine was in New York to meet him to discuss a real estate deal. They met in Mr. Milken’s conference room. While they talked, someone opened the door. “I hate to interrupt you,” the person said, “but this very important deal—they need an answer from you. When can we tell them that you’ll have a response?”
Mr. Milken took out his Day-Timer, looked at the calendar, and said, “The next time I have scheduled myself to think is Thursday at ten A.M., so I won’t be able to get back to them until Thursday afternoon at five P.M.”
My mentor couldn’t believe his ears and asked, “Mr. Milken— scheduling time to think? What do you mean?”
Mr. Milken answered, “I schedule time to think. That’s what I do. I don’t make any important decision unless I’ve scheduled time to think ahead of that decision.”
Mike Milken schedules time to think like he schedules meetings. You can do the same. You don’t have to be a billionaire.
Establish a specific time each day when you can think about the most important things in your life. If you’re always busy with other things, expecting the right answer to pop into your mind is like waiting for lightning to strike—it’s not going to happen when and where you need it to, if at all. Just fifteen minutes, just a few times a week, and you’ll find yourself feeling more in control and making better choices than ever.
Rituals are daily. If you exercised for three hours once a month and sat at your desk the rest of the time, would you consider yourself healthy? What if you ate nothing but a salad for a whole day, then fast food for the next twenty-nine? Would you consider that healthy?
For rituals to work, consistency is more important than duration. It’s better to do a ritual for ten minutes every day rather than an hour once a month. Why? First of all, habits are built by repetition. Lots of repetition. And doing something twelve times a year is no way to build a habit.
Second, even a few minutes a day is something you can build on. And once you hit your stride, you’ll find that time expanding all on its own. One minute of meditation is something you can build on. One push-up a day is something you can build on.
Small and steady builds momentum. Focus on the daily part of the ritual structure and worry less about how long you do something for. You can always make the habit last longer. It’s building the habit in the first place that takes time.
Rituals are sacred.
PIVOT POINT: The best rituals have a morning component. They are scheduled, daily, and sacred.