I love setting goals.  I do. But I have found, better than setting goals, is the creation of habits, rituals, or process. Habits are the path to the goal.  In our country despite the fact that we have more fitness-centers, diet coaches, and access to good and healthy food we are one of the most obese nations in the world.  This translates into a people who set more weight loss goals than any other people. And yet, of those who are even brave enough to engage their weight loss goals, 95% put the weight back on. What’s the difference between the 95% and the 5%?  Habits. Commitment to process. Ritual.

While talking about our new business venture, I had a friend of mine tell me, “don’t worry about your end goal, concentrate on the daily process, you’ll surpass your goal every time. Process is what matters.”  At the end of the day, if you focus on the ritual, journey, habit, or process, the outcome will take care of itself. This is a meta-truth, in other words, it encompasses our spiritual, physical, relational, and business life. Over the next several paragraphs, I want to talk about four truths about ritual, and suggest a few rituals for 2019.

Truth #1: We ritualize what we believe to be true and the areas we want to grow: In referring to their spiritual-life, I hear people say, “I’m spiritual and believe in God, but I don’t do organized religion.”  We don’t accept this ideology in any other part of our life. The truth is we organize what we believe in or love. What this person means is, “I don’t like the current version of institutional religion.”  If I say, “I believe in the value of health and fitness”, but never organize my life to make sure I am actively becoming more healthy, then I don’t believe in health and fitness. If I say, “I love learning”, but never organize time to learn from both those I may not agree with and those I do, then I don’t really like learning.  If you currently claim to be a Christian or “spiritual person”, yet only organize time to attend a weekly church service and neglect the rest of the week, ask yourself what other healthy relationship would survive on this schedule? If you claim you are a spiritual person but never commit to a community of spiritual seekers who will hold you accountable, then you are simply an isolationist justifying it with spiritual language, held back by fear and individualism. If you believe something to be true or want to grow in something, you will ritualize it.

Truth #2: You already participate in ritual - intentionally or unintentionally.  The immediate push back is, “I don’t believe in ritual.”  Yes you do. You’ve just allowed others to decide what your rituals are: 8 hour-work days.  Public School System. Kids Sports Practices. Eating schedules. The list could go on. I’m not saying these things are wrong (or right), what I’m saying is that the majority of us commit to them without even thinking about it.  We don’t even allow ourselves to believe there could be something else. And when we don’t question the conventional wisdom, we are allowing our lives to be determined by someone or something else’s agenda. If we ever wonder why our life isn’t changing or we aren’t growing, we need to quit looking at our goals, and inspect our rituals.  

Truth #3: Rituals help us recenter ourselves in the larger story of which we are part of and connect it to the individual and communal places we inhabit.   The first point clarity here would be taking the time to clarify the idea of the “larger story.”  For me personally, I understand the story I am living in, through the lens of the Kingdom of God.  Which means I have to be aware of the places where the larger American story that I participate in, conflicts with the Kingdom of God narrative.  I have to be aware of where the local-community-story conflicts with the God’s vision for a locality. Then I have to do the work of figuring out which story I am being centered in by the rituals I participate in. I may say, “I am a citizen of the Kingdom of God”, but if I am participating in rituals guided by the values of an opposing system, I am not being centered in the story I claim to be apart of.  I have to be intentional.

Truth #4: There is no better time to create intentional rituals than NOW.   This is what the New Year helps me do. Come November and December, it is easy to find ourselves off track or ignoring the rituals that should be part of our daily lives.  For me the New Year (or every single morning) is a time to remember the story I want to be telling and want to be part of, and thus create rituals that help me stay grounded in that.  

So, here’s a peek into my personal rituals:

  • Morning Ritual: Every morning I drink 20oz of water with 3gr of sea salt and a squeeze of lemon plus two cups of coffee.  I meditate for 23 minutes. I get my meditation from my daily readings. This year as a family we are reading through Brian McLaren’s Seeking Aliveness and I add the daily ritual from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals.  Then I read part of a book for spiritual growth. I do not look at social media, texts, calls, etc, until I have completed this.

  • Fitness Ritual: I exercise 3-4 times a week

  • Vocational Growth & Vision: I make regular time to write, read and study culture, ideation, and innovation and business, while also scheduling time to create recipes and think of vocational growth and writing down ideas.

  • Monday Night: Date night with Sarah (she set that up)

  • Giving: Sarah and I pick a work that our heart is pulled toward in give to it.  We have allowed this ritual to move into our business as well.

  • The Brewery: I attempt to brew every Tuesday.  Every day I walk into the brewery I have a prayer I say over the brewery and every beer we brew.  

Here’s the key, this all comes first.  This is why morning rituals are so important.  They help you start each day remembering that you are part of a larger story, a story that needs to be activated, perpetuated and lived out by you.  If you don’t start this way, you may have a lot of great goals, but chances are you will allow yourself to be overcome by what seems to be immediately in conflict with the better story!  Schedule your rituals in your date or appointment book and treat them like you would an actual appointment. No interruption.

Start some new rituals!