Never assume that you’re stuck with the way things are. Life changes every day, and so can you.
Just over a decade ago, Angel and I were desperately struggling to cope through the most painful season of our lives thus far — a season that included losing two loved ones to suicide and illness, family-related betrayal, job loss, financial instability, and more. And it all happened quickly too, back-to-back. The pain of this season knocked us down hard for a couple of years straight. At times, we felt like we had zero strength left to push onward. And that’s actually why we started writing on our blog in the first place. When we were at the lowest point in our lives, we used the blog as a public outlet and accountability journal. We wrote about our pain, our losses, the lessons we were learning, and the actions we knew we needed to hold ourselves accountable to, if we wanted to get through it all.
As we navigated our new reality one day at a time, one blog post at a time — facing the pain and investigating it, instead of distracting ourselves from it — we stumbled across morsels of strength and wisdom that we began to collect and build on. We gradually learned how to catch ourselves in negative states of emotional turmoil, so we could overcome the emotions that had once overcome us. We literally pushed ourselves as hard as we could to take one tiny action step after another — one honest conversation, one five-minute workout, one five-minute meditation, etc., and then we’d write about it. It wasn’t easy, but the tiny actions were manageable, and the daily ritual of writing about them helped keep us on track.
It was that painful season of our lives that ultimately changed the trajectory of our lives, gradually leading us into the successful personal development coaching and writing work we do today.
The pain changed our daily courses of action — our rituals.
The consistency of our rituals made us experts of these courses of action, over time.
“What tips can you give me?”
That’s a question we’ve been asked dozens of times in the past few weeks. Most of the people asking are friends and peers who, like us, are also coaches and self-help authors in some capacity. Why are they asking? Because we recently released a new book, Getting Back to Happy: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Reality, and Turn Your Trials into Triumphs, and it became an instant New York Times bestseller (an achievement that suddenly changed many of the aforementioned people’s perspectives concerning our level of expertise).
While there are no one-size-fits-all tips to give, writing on-topic every single day, consistently, for 10 years straight, through thick and thin, is one of the key rituals that made writing our bestseller possible. Most of our friends and peers don’t write every single day, because most of us don’t do anything consistently. We know from experience — we’ve been there ourselves in the past, too. But, we’ve since learned out of necessity that consistency is everything.
Here are some things to ask yourself and keep in mind along the way.
Are you willing to spend a little time every day (like most people won’t), so you can spend the better part of your life like most people can’t?
Think about that question for a moment. Let it sink in. You ultimately become (an expert) at what you repeatedly do in life.
And isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different? That’s the power of daily rituals.
Now, it’s time think about your rituals — the little things you do every day that occupy your attention and energy.
Because in many ways these little things define YOU.
Many of the most significant results you achieve in life — the accolades, the relationships, the love, the lessons — come from these little things.
Regardless of your unique talents, knowledge, and life circumstances, or how you personally define success, you don’t suddenly become successful. You become successful — you become an expert — over time based on your rituals.
So, what do your daily rituals look like?
You really have to sort this out, and get consistent with what’s right for you! Because failure occurs in the same way. All your little daily failures (those that you don’t learn and grow from) come together and cause you to fail. Think in terms of running a business…
- You keep failing to check the books.
- You keep failing to make the calls.
- You keep failing to listen to your customers.
- You keep failing to innovate.
- You keep failing to do the little things that need to be done.
Then one day you wake up and your business has failed. It was all the little things you did or didn’t do on a daily basis — your rituals — not just one inexplicable, catastrophic event.
Again, think about how this relates to your life.
Your life is your “business!”
Too often people overestimate the significance of one big defining moment and underestimate the value of making good decisions on a daily basis. Don’t be one of them! Remind yourself that the vast majority of the results in your life — positive and negative alike — are the result of many small decisions made over time.
Your daily rituals literally make or break you, gradually (and that’s why rituals are a key focal point of our New York Times bestselling book, Getting Back to Happy).
Above all, what you need to remember is that nothing will change with your trajectory — you will experience little growth — unless you make daily rituals that reinforce what you hope to achieve. Believe us, over the past decade we have successfully worked with hundreds of course students and live event attendees from around the world who were struggling to achieve things. This strategy of consistency is well-tested.
If you’re not willing to make it a daily ritual, then you don’t really want to “write that bestseller” as much as you say you do — you don’t really want to achieve that “important” goal. You only like the idea of being successful — an expert. You don’t actually want to do it, every day.
But if you DO want it as much as you say you do, it’s time to build the right daily rituals for yourself. It’s time to get consistent. It’s time to start today!
Watch this quick video Angel and I recorded for you, and let us bring this life-changing principle home for you, once and for all…
“Where do I start?”
(Note: This section is an excerpt from our book.)
Now, you might be thinking, “But where do I start, really? And how do I stick to a new ritual?” The ritual-building rules and tips we’re about to share here are fairly simple, but if you stick to them diligently, they’re basically infallible. These three guidelines are critical, and they have to do with making your rituals manageable: that is, start with one ritual, make it small, and maintain it for at least sixty days.
- Focus on one (and only one) positive change at a time. You can break this rule, and sadly most people do, but don’t be surprised if you fail because of it. If you try to do too much, nothing gets done right. So implement one positive change, and make it a ritual for a month before considering adding to it or starting a second. Only build upon your ritual if you are successful; otherwise stay with it until it feels like second nature.
- Keep your ritual small to start. You’ve probably heard this before, but again, most people don’t do it. Start with a daily ritual that lasts ten minutes or less. If you feel strong resistance and fail at ten minutes, drop it to five or even three minutes, and then do it for a full month before adding more time.
- Remember that establishing a ritual takes time. We tell our clients they need sixty days for a new ritual to become a part of their lives. By then they identify with it. This perspective shift is enormously important. They start to see the positive change they’ve implemented in their life, and they feel rewarded as they watch it shape them into a better, calmer person.
As for Angel and me personally, ever since leveraging our very first ritual to overcome that incredibly painful season of our lives I mentioned earlier, we’ve literally implemented dozens of other life-changing rituals over the years — daily exercise, daily journaling, daily meditation, and more. Adding and stacking these rituals happened one at a time.
We picked one new ritual at a time, and we started very small — just five minutes a day in most cases.
We initiated social accountability and motivation through Facebook and asked friends and family to check in with us on a daily basis to make sure we were on track.
We set up simple triggers for our rituals — for example, a trigger might be walking into our home after work — and then we’d perform the new ritual consciously every time the trigger happened.
We tracked the tiny bits of progress we made each day by crossing off the day on a wall calendar every single time we completed a daily ritual. The goal was to never break the chain of daily X’s on the calendar…
Then, once we felt comfortable with five minutes a day (after roughly 60 days of doing the ritual), we’d increase it to seven minutes a day, then ten minutes, and so forth.
That’s really all there is to it. At least that’s the simplified baseline of how to become an expert at the important things you’re not yet good at… from overcoming life’s painful challenges, to achieving your greatest dreams… to ultimately getting what you want out of life.
Afterthoughts… On Renewing Trust in Yourself
Renewing your trust in yourself is arguably the most significant hidden benefit of consistently practicing a daily ritual. In fact, what Angel and I lacked before we learned to implement these kinds of daily rituals was the trust that we were actually capable of achieving the positive results we desired in our lives. We had failed so many times in the past, and had grown so discouraged in ourselves, that we began subconsciously choosing procrastination over future attempts to fulfill the promises we made to ourselves — to heal, to grow, and to thrive in various ways.
In essence, we lost trust in both our abilities and ourselves. It’s kind of like another person constantly lying to you — eventually you stop trusting them. The same holds true with the little promises you make to yourself that always end in disappointment. Eventually, you stop trusting yourself.
And the solution in most cases is the same too: you have to renew your trust gradually, with small promises, small steps (your daily rituals), and small victories. Again, this process takes time, but it happens relatively fast if you stick to it. And it’s undoubtedly one of the most important, life-changing things you can do for yourself.
(Reminder: Angel and I also build and customize tiny, life-changing daily rituals with our students in the “Goals & Growth” module of the Getting Back to Happy Course.)
If you’re feeling up to it, we would love to hear from YOU.
What’s one tiny daily ritual that will move you closer to what you ultimately want to achieve in life?
Anything else to share?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
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