Rituals for Sucess | What Gets You Psyched to Face the Day?

Your daily ritual can be a simple as having a cup of coffee before you head out for the day.

“I love my voice. I love my body. I love my spirit. I love my soul. This is one of the best days of my life. Everything I need to know is revealed to me. Everything is happening for my own greater go od. . . .  All is well.”

I stood with eyes closed on the ballroom floor, midmorning sunshine streaming in from distant glass doors, catching on dusty floor plants lining the mirrored walls. I opened my eyes to a circle of students with eyes closed, repeating these phrases as drama coach Jim Tompkins chirped them out in his usual nasally chant. Yes, I was skeptical, but once I got over the awkwardness of the situation, I had to admit, it felt good. This ritual we repeated every day, along with running around on the slippery wooden floor, until we loosened up enough to knock the uneasiness right out of us.

I guess that was the point of the whole thing. These rituals consistently made us ready to work, shake off our self-doubt, and open up to have fun in our acting class. As ridiculous as they seemed, they did make me more confident. In our everyday life we all have our own set of strange things we do that are important to us, that get us ready for life.

It’s easy to assume that successful people are just naturally confident. But scratch the surface and you’ll find that they are just as human as you are, with their own quirks, insecurities, and challenges. Maybe all of us need warm-ups for life, to help give us the confidence to face challenges with dignity and strength. 

What Works for Me

Since I will be exposing other people’s personal and often odd habits, it seems only fair that I should start off with some of my own self-created rituals. For instance, the night before a class presentation, I like to paint my toenails. It givesme the sense that I’ve prepared myself, down to the last detail. In the morning I take a swig of the ayurvedic syrup Mind Plus and pop a couple of Stress Free Emotions herbal pills. Then, to ensure a little extra spunk, I rock out to the famous Diana Ross track “I’m Coming Out” on the way to school.

Drinking coffee is my most most important ritual. For me, it’s as nourishing as a long massage when you’re aching or a down comforter when you’re shivering in the cold. I tremendously enjoy a smooth and creamy latte at Café Paradiso, drip coffee from home with a splash of half & half and agave nectar, or even a little cowboy coffee, black and gritty. These little things can have a surprisingly profound effect on the outcome of my day.

As I sat pondering this over my morning coffee, I became curious to find out what daily routines help others face the day. What works best to help people cope? What boosts confidence to bring about success?

The word “success” conjures up images of luxury and fame, but I don’t pretend to have any insight on becoming a millionaire. I mean success in a different sense—in the ability to feel great the majority of the time, to stay centered and peaceful through life’s inevitable pushes and pulls. If you haven’t yet found out what works for you, perhaps these tried and true rituals can inspire you to find your own.

What Works for Others

In order to answer these questions, I set out to talk with close friends and family to begin gathering material. Then I made the rounds of the town square, talking to store owners and people on the street about how they conquer the worst enemy of success—self-doubt.

At Curves for Women, an employee greeted me cheerfully at the door when I came in, questions in hand. Her most effective ritual turned out to be in that very facility. “I come and work out at Curves each day before I start my morning shift,” she told me. With peppy music playing in the background, and ladies laughing and chatting as they rotated work out stations, I immediately saw the charm.

On my way out of Curves, I ran into Ben Esty, who was painting the house next door. His cinnamon-and-black-striped boxer looked up eagerly at him from the base of the ladder. I decided to question Ben as well. After a moment’s thought, he said, “There is a simple equation I use: Exercise + Outdoors + My Dog = Happy.”

I stopped in AJ’s Bike Shop later that day. The mechanic happened to be helping a customer find a comfortable cruiser, a red bike called the Giant. I waited my turn. She seemed a bit surprised when I asked what inspired her for the day instead of inquiring about a bicycle bell. She recovered quickly, though, answering, “When I’m not feeling whippy about coming into work, I just remember the service we are providing for people. Some people really rely on their bikes, and it’s a great feeling knowing we’re needed.”

As she spoke, her face transformed into that of a thoughtful daydreamer. Her morning ritual was something that brought her apparent joy. “I need to give myself quiet time before I start my day,” she said. “I’ll get up two hours early so I can take a walk in the garden, and just listen to the birds.”

Male vs. Female

My questioning went on like this for the next few days until I gathered a plethora of anecdotes. I found that they could easily be split into different categories. Men sought simplicity, wanting something they could completely immerse themselves in. They were attracted to activities that allowed them to problem solve..

Women wanted to feel organized and in control, to feel like they had done something really well. And overwhelmingly, they wanted to feel beautiful. “If you do things that make your outer feel good, your inside will feel good,” said one woman, who reported that a stylish haircut tops her list for feeling confident. I must say, she did have a cute, flashy red bob that made her blue eyes pop.

Gender studies have shown that women tie their self-worth to their appearance much more closely than men do. As one of my girlfriends said, “A man can brush it off when he looks in the mirror and doesn’t feel attractive. If a woman looks in the mirror and doesn’t feel beautiful, that stays with her all day.”

A common thread for both sexes was seeking upliftment, a desire to merge with something larger, making others happy, and socializing. Also, both men and women wanted to change their state of consciousness or emotional state, often through the arts or physical activity.

Those with artistic sensibilities found freedom through music, photography, acting, and dance. From something as simple as blasting a confidence-boosting song on the way to an interview, to mixing records, playing Rachmaninoff on the piano, or going to a hip-hop session to shake it, men and women found an escape through the arts that was good for the soul.

Men’s tendency to become immersed in their own world often leads to a hobby that irritates all wives, mothers, and girlfriends. Video games plague households all over the world, transferring the player into an imaginary world that makes sense to him. For the modern frat boy, watching the NFL or other sport on a high-definition flat screen might fill the hours that other men spend in a virtual world.

Many men answered my survey saying that anything competitive helps to engage them fully and forget stresses of the day. Playing a game of pickup basketball, speed chess, soccer, or even a round of Boggle will engross them enough to forget their troubles.

An interesting difference between men and women came out during one of my interviews: while games can be a ritual for both sexes, they are satisfying for different reasons. I approached a pair of close friends, male and female, who battled each other in Scrabble as a favorite pastime. The girl reported, “He usually wins when we play, but I always get longer and more interesting words! All he cares about is strategizing to win, but I still feel like I played the game better.”

You don’t see many men walking down the aisles of the supermarket with a “to do” list in hand. But for any no-nonsense gal, lists are as sacred and crucial a part of life as eating or sleeping. This is because organization and routine bring satisfaction to every area of a professional woman’s life. 

Exercise, Pampering, Meditation

Exercise was a common ritual for both men and women. Exercising releases endorphins and has been proven to be a form of antidepressant. For some, it came back to the quest for simplicity. One man said about his daily four-mile run, “There are no games, it’s just me and the road.”

Along with exercise, pampering yourself was top on the list as a great way to feel happy for many women. Hot baths, long showers, oil massage, and facials were all common mood boosters.

Unwinding with a feel-good movie after a long day was an important ritual for some. “Movies with bright color schemes and cheerful music are always better,” said one friend. “I would choose Nancy Drew or 13 Going on 30 over a gloomy Academy Award-winning movie any day.”
Sometimes unexpected things bring the most joy. Flower-painted toenails was one woman’s answer. “I don’t like to bother with make-up and hair,” she said, “but my toenails are my shining stars.”

Meditation was a ritual across the board, which may be due to the town in which the interviews took place. Meditation’s success lies in its ability to allow your mind to transcend thought, tapping into your inner strength and larger identity. How can you not feel great from this? It gives you confidence in your being, leaving everyday stresses insignificant and more solveable.

What works to warm people up for life varies across the entire range of human experience. Sports, music, art, dance, photography, writing, yoga, jogging, weight lifting, socializing, meditating: these are all different channels to awaken inspiration. Merging with something larger, feeling connected to humanity, being in tune with your body, enjoying simplicity, finding freedom in your life, and making others happy are all things that make this life worth living.                                                

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