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Why Creating Better Habits, Routines and Rituals May Be the Key to Unlocking Your Purpose

Some background: this past summer I worked with a positive psychology expert and well-being consultant to help her develop her business and create workshops for Fortune 500 clients. Of all the content we explored and curated, the topic which resonated with me most was Habits, Routines and Rituals. In my opinion, this is the way to ‘hack life’, by being happier, more productive, and feeling more grounded during this difficult time.

All content in this article is backed by positive psychology research.

Asking yourself the question “What is my purpose in life?” can be extremely overwhelming and often can result in more stress than progress. Looking at the big picture can be motivating, but also daunting. We can utilise habits, routines and rituals to ensure that we are doing small things throughout our day-to-day life which we consider to be meaningful, in order to live a life with more purpose on a larger scale, thus achieving those ‘big picture’ goals. With more awareness of what our habits and routines are, we can craft them to not only enable higher productivity, but to also enable a more mindful day and life.

To begin with, we need to be able to determine the difference between these three things. A habit is something which is done for the purpose of performing the action itself. It’s functional, pretty automatic, and doesn’t require too much thought. These can take many shapes, but some common examples are brushing your teeth, taking vitamins before bed, etc. A ritual has purpose outside of the action itself, it’s very specific and some people might feel as though something was ‘missing’ if it didn’t get done. Rituals can be sacred to people without them realizing it and they can be the key to a person’s well-being. Starting and ending the day with the same rituals or doing certain tasks with more care than you’d initially give in order to make them more ritualistic can give more meaning to smaller things and help you to feel more grounded. The key to a ritual is to give something which may seem ordinary, more purpose and meaning.

The routine itself is what will bring any strategy to action, these can include large goals with lengthy timeframes or simple things you want to achieve throughout the day. The key is to be purposeful with which habits and rituals make up your routine, and take it step by step from there.

So, how can you be a good habitor?

There are 3 components of successful habit creation: knowing it’s an internal affair, considerately carry out your habits, and design your habits for success.

Knowing it’s an Internal Affair

In order to carry out successful habits in your daily life, you must be aware of yourself and your needs. You must believe that you can do what you want and have the power to create good habits, and you must also understand that this takes willpower and motivation. The word ‘habit’ can carry an air of automacy, but to begin with, you must be intentional and strategic, and eventually these habits will become automatic.

Considerately Carrying Out Your Habits

In the early stages of habit formation, awareness and consideration are vital. If you expect to create a meaningful life, it won’t all be automatic. Give your habits the time and energy they require to become smart and targeted towards a purposeful life. This includes:

  • Focusing on the routine and their sequence. When do you need what?

  • Holding yourself accountable and measuring the success of your new habits.

  • Celebrating and rewarding yourself when you witness progress.

  • Knowing how to pause and play, and when to simply turn on auto-pilot.

  • Tweaking and repeating. Use trial and error to see what works for you and what doesn’t. Be honest when things aren’t working, or don’t feel right for you.

Designing Your Habits for Success

When it comes to actually designing your habits, give yourself the following checklist to ensure that they are being crafted for success:

  1. Start with a clean slate

  2. Don’t overdo the number of habits you’re creating. Quality over quantity.

  3. Ensure that your environment (people in your life, physical surroundings, elements of technology) is one which will promote your goals for these habits.

  4. Make habits small, easy and specific.

  5. Create sparks or cues which will remind you to carry them out (someone reminding you, a notification on your phone, different mealtimes representing habit times, etc.)

A Note on Your Environment

Your behaviour and your environment are extremely intertwined when it comes to specific outcomes. Everyone thrives in a different environment, and you must align your goals for your habits, routines and rituals with the environment around you. Often people pick things up and use certain things when they’re in sight. So, if you want to make your meditation practise more consistent, set up your mat in a place which will cue the reminder to meditate. If you want to eat better, don’t stock your pantry with junk food. It’s as easy as that. For humans, our perception is directed by our sensory nervous system, and vision is our most powerful cue when it comes to reminders. A small change in what you see can make a huge difference in what you do.

How Long Will It Take to Adopt These New Habits, Routines and Rituals?

The more repetitions you create, the more automatic they will become. This graph shows that the more you carry out your habits, the more automatic they will become.

Time to Plan: Your Habit, Ritual and Routine Framework

It’s a challenge, and it may be easier not to even try creating better habits, routines and rituals, but challenge yourself to create one right now using this guide.

Step 1: Start with your plan. What habit or ritual are you going to undertake in order to promote and stimulate success in your life? Which part of your routine is it going to fall into?

Step 2: Cue it. Make sure that whatever it is, there is a visual cue in your environment to remind you and hold you accountable. If you want to exercise more, keep your mat out. If you want to practise daily journaling, keep your notebook by your bed or on your desk. Tailor your environment for accountability.

Step 3: Do it!

Step 4: Notice your progress. Celebrate the fact that you’ve been consistent by telling people close to you and tracking the positive change it brought upon you.

Step 5: Tweak and repeat it (ask yourself if your routine is aligned to feeling purposeful, if not, edit it!).

It may not appear so, but trying to define your life’s purpose is far more challenging than creating a couple of strong habits, routines and rituals. Following your purpose will happen as a consequence to making these small and positive changes, and soon you’ll feel more in touch with yourself, in control, and more grounded than ever.


About the Author

Cléa Pariseau

Cléa is a Third Year student at the Smith School of Business and is one half of the Logistics team on QWIL. Cléa is passionate about women in leadership and equity, art and culture, and traveling. Since her internship with a positive psychology expert and corporate wellbeing consultant this past summer, she is increasingly interested in the elements of a more balanced life and seeing wellbeing in the business world.


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