Since the nature of people is bad, to become corrected, they must be taught by teachers, and to be orderly they must acquire ritual and moral principles.

-Xun Kuang

Routine vs. Ritual

There is a big difference between a routine and a ritual. To most, a routine is getting up every morning and doing the same things day in and day out; eat breakfast, brush your teeth, take a shower and go to work. It’s not very glamorous, but these things are important, and they need to get done. And for most, these activities can be boring and require effort. However, rituals are more meaningful and purposeful practices. Often, there is a rooted yearning to be more, and a real sense of fulfillment attached to rituals. They are soul-feeling practices as opposed to worldly feeling activities.

Here are the key differences I find between routines and rituals:

Having a ritual is the secret to self-development, high performance and productivity. There is a certain power to a ritual. It’s easy to get lost in a daily routine when your day is overwhelmed by tasks and personal obligations. We spend precious energy and time figuring out what needs to be done, and by the time we do get our first task, we already feel drained.

Rituals help you get in the zone; they help you build a healthy framework and lead you to become more than if you didn’t have them. They remove all the guesswork and put you on the right track. Having a ritual makes you feel energized, recharged, passionate and engaged in what you’re doing. You and the task at hand become one. Unfortunately, many people rarely get into a zone; they are everywhere and nowhere simultaneously. Most successful people I’ve met and worked with, all had some ritual or rituals.

Take my father, for instance; he had several rituals. To raise thirteen kids, he had to work hard and punch the clock five days a week for thirty years at the same company. To get to work, he’d walk two hours to and from work. He’d spend eight long hours working the same job. My father was illiterate, never went to school, but boy was he brave. Despite the mountain of challenges, he and my mother did an excellent job sending us to college. Without his ritual, my father would have lost it. He had a morning ritual to get him going, a storytelling ritual where he would gather with friends and relatives and inspire them so they too can protect themselves against the burden of challenges, a Sunday sauna ritual, and a prayer ritual to get him connected to his religious beliefs. I’m grateful to have learned from him; he helped me see life with a different and honest perspective.

I also have several rituals, a morning ritual, a workout ritual and a bedtime ritual. Because I take a day off from work, my Sunday rituals differ slightly from my weekdays’ rituals.

Here is how I start my weekday (when I’m not traveling for seminars or workshops):

  • 6:30 a.m.: Wake up, make bed 6:45 a.m.: Shower, brush my teeth.
  • 7:00 a.m.: Morning ritual: meditate, breathing exercises, visualize my day ahead, read, review goals.
  • 8:00 a.m.: Prepare and eat breakfast. (Protein shake or eggs with fruits and vegetables.)
  • 9: 00 a.m.: 90-minute power focus. (Writing)
  • 10:30 a.m.: 30-minutes creative recharge. (Snack: protein shake, Client call.)
  • 11:00 a.m.: 90-minutes power focus. (Research)
  • 12:30 p.m.: Lunch. (Cook or eat out healthy foods)
  • 2:00 p.m.: Back to my office: 90-minute Power Focus. (Client program design)
  • 3:30 p.m.: Afternoon Ritual: warm-up, strength training, cardio, stretching, post-workout shake.
  • 4: 30 p.m.: 90-minute power focus. (Writing, preparing material for seminars or speaking engagements)
  • 6: 00 p.m.: Exit office: Personal time. (Family or socialize with friends)
  • 7: 30 p.m.: Dinner with family or friends.
  • 9: 00 p.m.: Unwind. (Kids, TV watching, reading)
  • 10:00 p.m.: Evening Ritual: listen to classical music in bed, candle and incense lighting)
  • 10:30 p.m.: Lights out!

Here is how I spend my Sundays:

  • 7:30 a.m.: Wake up, make the bed. (I usually get up an hour later)
  • 7:45 a.m.: Shower, brush my teeth.
  • 8:00 a.m.: Morning ritual. (Meditate, breathing exercises, visualize my day ahead, read, write, review goals)
  • 9: 00 a.m.: Exercise ritual: running.
  • 10:30 a.m.: Late breakfast or brunch with the kids.
  • 1:30 p.m.: Light lunch. (Smoothie or healthy sandwich)
  • 2:30 p.m.: Outdoors fun or catch a movie with the kids.
  • 5:30 p.m.: Healthy snack . (Protein shake or Greek yogurt and almonds)
  • 7 p.m.: Dinner with family.
  • 8:30 p.m.: Alone time for my Sunday Prep ritual to get ready for the week ahead for about 90 minutes.
  • 10:00 p.m.: Evening Ritual. (listen to classical music in bed, candle, and incense lighting)
  • 10:30 p.m.: Lights out!

Mindful tips: Carving out some alone time and preparing your week ahead allows you to see and feel everything you need to focus on for the week, it eliminates the unnecessary stress, the distractions, and the guesswork. You’ll feel clearer and more energized to start your week.