There is an energy crisis that rarely makes the front page, yet affects you each and every day. That is the internal energy crisis that comes from lack of full engagement in what you do.
Energy is a combination of spirit and vigor, which determines how much you enjoy your work, contributes to your staying power, and improves your performance. The crisis occurs when you do not have enough energy to meet and surpass expectations.
If your energy is not up to the task, then you are likely to perform poorly or put it off until later, neither way a productive strategy. Continuing to work like this will lead to burnout, or put you in the cue for the exit door.
If you feel out of synch like this, it is easy to blame the boss, complain about your colleagues, or decide that you deserve better. And perhaps you do. The problem is that entitlement has never been a ticket to empowerment.
The superior strategy is to navigate with full engagement, because its energy empowers you to enjoy and accomplish more, and actually increases your options on the path.
One of the most useful ways to generate energy is the power of ritual, developing a personal power routine. Institutionalized ritual is nothing new. It has been practiced for centuries as a means of cultivating energy in groups. It has also proved effective in enhancing performance in sports, and many top athletes stick to their rituals religiously.
In the martial arts and calligraphy, the power of ritual is self-evident. Training itself is a ritual, and the cumulative power of practice leads to improvement at all levels.
Part of the power of ritual is in repetition, where intentional effort gradually turns into automatic ability. The power of ritual is the power of habit. We are ruled by our habits, good and bad, as Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) said:
“The chains of habit are too weak to be felt, until they are too strong to be broken.”
There is a Japanese proverb which advises to sit 3 years on a stone (Ishi no ue ni mo san nen). The implication is that it takes 3 years of effort, engagement, or sometimes endurance for something to take effect. Although this seems counter-intuitive in a world brimming with promises of instant results, patience and perseverance were once considered to be the secret to success.
In fact, if you engage in a regular ritual, you can break bad habits and form good ones in a matter of weeks or months, not years. But you need to start, and you need to stay with it. A good place to start is with a morning power ritual, which you design yourself and make a personal priority to practice.
Have fun designing a ritual that works for you. Your rituals must have flexibility, or they will not last. My personal rituals are phrased in such a way that they are easy to practice and allow for variety. For example, to spend some time on my feet every day can be achieved by walking, running, Aikido, or dance. I commit to daily work on my Mandala Diary, Idea Marathon, and create at least one sketch-poem a day.
Food rituals are important too. You cannot deny the effect of food on your physical energy. Choose fresh ingredients, chew your food well, don’t overeat. Take responsibility in what you eat, so you don’t have to suffer for it later in life.
The coolest thing that I have discovered about ritual is that the more you engage with it, the more it transforms from a routine into a journey of discovery. The 30 to 90 minutes that you invest at the start of your day will set the tone for the entire day, help you stay focused and strong, and build momentum that makes you more productive.
Develop Your Talent
If you have an interest in improving your skills in any area, particularly performance, you owe it to yourself to read The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle.
Written by an award-winning sports journalist who turned his own talents toward investigating the process of talent itself, what it is, how it develops, what is universal. The subtitle offers the promise: unlocking the secret of skill in math, art, sport, and just about anything else.
He breaks the code into 3 essential parts: Deep Practice, Ignition (Passion), and Master Coaching, and ties it together with a biological key that could revolutionize the entire field of learning and teaching. In a word: Myelin, the insulating sheath of protein that forms protective layers around the axons of neurons.
The author’s metaphor for a well-formed myelin sheath is extra bandwidth, formed through repetition and particularly deep practice, which increases the speed, accuracy, and frequency of nerve impulses which result in the performance of a particular skill.
He traveled around the world to visit the “talent hotbeds,” places which produced an extraordinary number of world class performers in music or sports, and came back with some surprising findings. Regardless of how different the language, the culture, or the field of play, there were surprising consistencies which the author describes as the Talent Code. Slow, deliberate mindful practice over thousands of hours made all the difference.
This is actually the power of navigating your way steadily over a period of years to achieve outstanding results. Whether your goal is to boost your energy, achieve something you want, or develop your talent, you can only benefit by employing the power of ritual!
—William Reed specializes in applying practical wisdom from Japanese and Asian culture to solving the problems of modern business and living. He is the author of the Flexible Focus column on Active Garage, the syndicated column Creative Career Path and the book A Zoom Lens for Your life. William is also a Representative Director and Co-Founder of EMC QUEST Corporation, which provides Coaching for Communication and Change, World Class Speaking™, and Accelerated Action with GOALSCAPE™.