Do Personal Rituals Help Your Performance?

ritual

Habits matter. They put you on autopilot so that things get done in an orderly fashion. Better yet, you need not think hard about what to do first, second, and so on. You’ll never lose your keys or glasses by storing them in the same place each time you put them down. Rituals boost memory. You’ll be comfortable when you develop a set of reactions such as sighing deeply on your way home from work, donning some casual clothes to work in the yard or to exercise your muscles, then checking the mail and your phone messages. The routine, whatever you make of it, helps you to be functional to your full potential. You won’t waste time looking for necessities and you’ll slide into specific activities without stressing over trying to remember “What was I supposed to do?”

Not all rituals are performed each day. Some are for special occasions. People who relocate rather often for employment purposes or for military duty find it helpful to hang the same curtains, stack the same CDs the same way, or use other ritualistic ways to set up their homes and offices the same way no matter where in the world they’re situated. Seeing familiar items, knowing what to expect, and where to find a given item in any location can be comforting. Rituals orient us to time, place, and person. That does a lot to keep a person grounded, calm, and organized.

Rituals can be healing. When crises such a death or disease alter the way we can live life, having rituals to lean on helps us to move on from grief. We don’t have to figure out what to do, what’s “proper,” or when to take specific actions. The rites of religious and social rituals guide us past temporary confusion and uncertainty. The rituals, so to speak, think for us. You might not realize this, but the rest of your mind is putting your thoughts in order as you recover with the help of such rituals.

Rituals can let us laugh at ourselves. Think of fictional psychologist Dr. Bob Hartley in the “Bob Newhart Show.” He wore his lucky hat when he did the bills, so he could get through them without making mistakes. Normal people do similar things such as using the same kitchen timer, no matter how hard it is to buy another one if the old one broke, or wearing the same slippers to take out the trash. Some people buy the same day planner each year, because they’re used to it. They know that adjusting to a new format might sabotage their need to note appointments and tasks as necessary. Sometimes, the Same Old Same Old can save us from falling apart.