Coaching brings us deeper into relationship with ourselves. It provides a safe container in which to accept where we are at and then create possibilities for change. Routines and Rituals are a great way of sustaining those changes.
Both routines and rituals have a predictable structure, a sense of anticipation, and can be grounding, reassuring, calming, and stabilising.
Routines: automatic, create familiarity, ground us, concrete, repetitive, develop skills, have continuity and order
Rituals: intentional, create excitement, elevate us, creative, meaningful, guide us through transitions
A routine is laying the table every day. A ritual is laying the table with special tableware to mark a particular occasion.
Further nuances in determining the differences between each can be measured by unpacking the following areas:
- Intentionality – a ritual has increased intentionality compared to a routine
- Effort – a ritual has increased effort compared to a routine
- Meaningfulness – a ritual has more meaning compared to a routine
- Enjoyment – a ritual has more enjoyment compared to a routine
- Structure – a routine has more structure compared to a ritual
- Feelings that come up when you do not do it – this may vary depending on what the ritual and routine is
Do you agree with these delineations? Are there any other ways you would determine the differences?
Habits: these take less effort than routines and rituals and can arise from either. For example, brushing your teeth* probably feels like a habit. You do not give it much thought or attention anymore, it just happens. But when you first started doing it as a kid, it felt like an effort, you needed reminding, more so for kids who may experience the world differently. My daughter is neurodivergent and currently needs a reminder, while some of her peers have been in teeth-brushing habit-mode for several years.
* I recognise my own filters and privilege, and that this activity may not have been part of your childhood story.
Rituals can help us process unfinished emotions. They aid emotional transitions by marking a change. For example, with the end of a relationship there are legal rituals (divorce, coming off the mortgage of rental agreement, closing the joint bank account). Although painful, they can also bring a sense of completion, which helps healing.
You can make up your own healing rituals. Many of my clients come to me for relationship coaching, and twice a year I offer a Moving Through Heartbreak 28-day programme. I developed this course as a response to a particularly traumatic breakup. At the time I talked to my own coach about some rituals that could help (coaches need coaches!) With their help I decided to write down every way the relationship had not served me. I wrote each on a slip of paper and worded them as if I were telling my ex-girlfriend. The act of doing this already felt healing. I put the paper into a tub and promptly forgot about it!
It was not until months later that I completed the ritual. The universe knows when you are ready. I had been rearranging a bookshelf and came across the tub while also listening to an emotive song. In that moment I just knew. I went into my garden, lit the firepit, played the song and burnt the paper. I can still remember the sense of freedom I felt as the paper tuned to ashes. That night I had a completion dream about my ex and woke up the next day with a sense of expansiveness that had been missing for months.
I have talked about self-care in another blog and it fits well into our discussion.
Great daily practices that start as routines and develop into habits are:
- Going to bed/getting up at the same time
- Allocating time for mental solitude
- Regular hydration
- Healthy nourishment
- Moving with intention
These all take planning and regardless of your coaching niche, you are likely to come across clients wanting help with these healthy lifestyle commitments. But how can you facilitate implementing change?
Ascribing Meaning. The more meaning you attach to a new practice, the more likely it is to stick. Perhaps asking yourself “How does this daily task contribute to my life purpose?” is a starting point. And if this is too broad a topic, help your client to break it down.
Motivation. I had a client who wanted to move with intention every day. Initially they framed it as something they should do. We unpacked this a little further and identified that one of the main outcomes was that they wanted to have more energy for their young child. Once we had associated the underlying reason for their wishes, the motivation increased.
Purpose. Contemplate the purpose of this new habit, routine, or ritual. How does it connect to the bigger picture of living with purpose?
Example 1: You may wake up to a reverberant alarm on your phone every morning. How would it be to change it to a song associated with a joyful memory? Or a soundscape that expands your sense of wellbeing?
Example 2: You may enjoy the routine of dog-walking every morning and evening. How would it feel to listen to an audio book or podcast for one or both of those walks?
Habit Stacking. On top of this, you may want to bring in Habit Stacking. This is where you attach a new practice to an established one. Find out what your client does every day which requires little effort. Find a new practice can be added that does not take any more time or effort.
For example, I was keen to start making positive affirmations as part of my morning practice, but I just could not make them stick! They were sporadic and felt effortful. I looked at what I do every day and landed on bed-making. The next morning I spoke affirmations while making my bed and have continued to do so from that day forward! It does not take any more time or effort. It does kick off my day with positive energy.
I had a client who wanted to journal every day. The best way to bring in a new practice is to start with small, manageable chunks. We decided on ten minutes. I asked her what activities she completed every day. We settled on the coffee routine. She has coffee every day, made with a machine which takes ten minutes to brew. Perfect! This would give her enough time to journal during this time. To solidify the new practice I waited as she, during the zoom session, went to put her journal and pen by the coffee machine where it would now live as a reminder.
The satisfaction of seeing our clients build fulfilling, enriching new actions and behaviours is wonderful. Further, they inspire me to work on being the best human I can.
What are some new practices you want to bring in? And what do you do every day that lends itself to being habit stacked? Share your ideas below.
- BOOK: Atomic Habits: an easy and proven way to build good habits and break bad ones, by James Clear
- BOOK: The Miracle Morning: six habits that will transform your life before 8am, by Hal Elrod
- ARTICLE: Rituals Vs Routines Vs Habits – 9 Differences 2022 (coaching-online.org)
- TALK: Join Ali Hendry in her ah coaching community | Facebook Group for a free Talkinar (talk/webinar) on Rituals & Routines