Research by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee indicates that most change efforts—like New Year’s resolutions—fail after the initial implementation or honeymoon phase. Self-discipline isn’t enough to make positive changes stick. In their book, “The Power of Full Engagement,” Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz propose that we create rituals to help support our resolutions because we only have so much will power that drains our energy. They write:
We use the word “ritual” purposefully to emphasize the notion of a carefully defined, highly structured behavior. In contrast to will and discipline, which require pushing yourself to a particular behavior, a ritual pulls at you. Think of something as simple as brushing your teeth. It is not something that you ordinarily have to remind yourself to do. Brushing your teeth is something to which you feel consistently drawn, compelled by its clear health value. You do it largely on automatic pilot, without much conscious effort or intention. The power of rituals is that they insure that we use as little conscious energy as possible where it is not absolutely necessary, leaving us free to strategically focus the energy available to us in creative, enriching ways.
Rituals make it possible to conserve as much energy we need to apply to the parts of self-transformation that can’t be done on automatic pilot, therefore making our success rate higher. “All great performers rely on positive rituals to manage their energy and regulate their behavior,” explain the authors. “The more exacting the challenge and the greater the pressure, the more rigorous our rituals need to be.”
Published originally on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.