Developing a Big Goal Ritual
“It’s part of my ritual to watch a new film every day, no matter what. It’s important to me.” —Hideo Kojima
Welcome back, class.
Today, we’re going to learn how to develop healthy rituals to help us accomplish our Big Goals.
We Live in Patterns
Our lives are based on patterns: Wake up, go to sleep, shower, eat, etc. As time goes on, these patterns turn into habits, and the things that we’ve done numerous times, over and over, become hardwired into our brains. In essence, we are glorified versions of Pavlov’s dogs.
Doctor Ivan Pavlov was a Nobel Prize-winning Russian physiologist during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Pavlov studied the digestive systems of dogs and noticed that the dogs eventually began to pre-emptively salivate whenever they heard his assistant’s footsteps because they learned to associate the footsteps with the food that the assistant would always bring them. This realization inspired Pavlov to study what became known as classical conditioning and led to the foundation of modern behavioral therapy.
Creating a Big Goal Ritual
Such mental priming is important for us to keep our Big Goals moving forward. In order to do this, we need to set up a Big Goal Ritual to help us get our work done. A Big Goal Ritual is a regular time and place where we dedicate ourselves to working on the Critical Actions we must complete in order to accomplish our Big Goal. A Big Goal Ritual could be waking up early in the morning to spend two hours writing your book in your living room or maybe finding a quiet place in the library every weekend to work on studying a new skill. The best time for most of us to set our Big Goal Ritual is during off-peak hours, such as early in the morning or late at night. This minimizes distractions to our progress.
What Hurts Our Ritual?
It’s crucial that we develop a regular routine to get our minds ready for the work that we’re going to do. We need to create an environment that disrupts any distractions (hence the early-morning or late-evening scheduling preference). Our aim is to trigger our minds to switch from our day-to-day life to our Big Goal life, the time we have specifically set aside to make progress toward our Big Goal. Our minds need time to shift from what they were previously doing to focusing on our Big Goal; this is called the Cognitive Switching Penalty. We overcome this by minimizing our distractions.
For all but a scant few Big Goals, this means that during our Big Goal Ritual, we have to put down our phones, stop checking our email, and stay off of social media—no video games, television, or internet videos either. If you do feel the urge to do something other than work on your Big Goal, then ask yourself if what you’re doing is moving your Big Goal forward. If it’s not, then stop and get back to focusing on what you need to do.
Environment and Willpower
Renowned entrepreneur Jim Rohn famously said that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and as time goes on, you will unconsciously begin to take on those five people’s attributes and tendencies. Their social norms will become your social norms. A similar principle applies to your environment. Each setting is conducive to a certain type of work, and if your desired Big Goal Ritual conflicts with the environment you place yourself in, then you will deplete your mental endurance and jeopardize your Big Goal. To illustrate this point, imagine how difficult it would be to read or write a book in a bustling office or a noisy fish market. Any time you try to complete a Big Goal Ritual in the wrong environment, not only will your willpower begin to drain, but your achievement of your Big Goal will also be delayed.
Every Ritual Requires Sacrifice
In order to achieve our Big Goals, we’ll need to come to terms with the fact that we have to sacrifice something along the way. For me, this sacrifice was to give up playing video games and avoid guilty pleasures in order to graduate from college and land a job at a great company. I couldn’t spare any time for distracting diversions because I realized that the only way I was going to be able to reach my Big Goal was to prioritize it over everything else. Luckily, I was able to live without the luxuries I sacrificed. But only you can determine what you’ll need to give up in order to make your Big Goal a reality. Here are common sacrifices that may ring true for you:
• You may have to wake up earlier or stop staying up so late.
• You might need to schedule curfews or enforce time limits for your social media use.
• You might have to stop going out every weekend.
• You may have to cut back on your spending.
• You might have to stop stocking your fridge with sweets and fatty foods.
1. Create a Big Goal Ritual by determining when and where you will work on your Critical Actions. Add your Big Goal Ritual to your Goal Journal.
2. Think about your Big Goal, and consider what you will have to sacrifice in order to achieve it.
3. Write out all the reasons it might be hard to sacrifice the things you expect to give up. Then write out all the ways accomplishing your Big Goal is worth this sacrifice. Keep these notes so if your sacrifice begins to wear you down, you can look back at your words and remember the reasons you chose this Big Goal in the first place.
In our next lesson, we’ll look at how to build a schedule to accomplish our Big Goal.
Jordan Thibodeau and Samara Veler
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