How do some of the most prolific artists in the world motivate themselves? They don’t merely set schedules, they build rituals.
Twyla Tharp is widely regarded as one of the greatest dancers and choreographers of the modern era. In her best-selling book, The Creative Habit (audiobook), Tharp discusses the role rituals, or pre-game routines, have played in her success:
I begin each day of my life with a ritual; I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st street and First Avenue, where I workout for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual.
It’s a simple act, but doing it the same way each morning habitualizes it — makes it repeatable, easy to do. It reduces the chance that I would skip it or do it differently. It is one more item in my arsenal of routines, and one less thing to think about.
Many other famous creatives have rituals too. In his popular book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, author Mason Currey notes that many of the world’s great artists follow a consistent schedule.
- Maya Angelou rented a local hotel room and went there to write. She arrived at 6:30 AM, wrote until 2 PM, and then went home to do some editing. She never slept at the hotel.
- Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon writes five nights per week from 10 PM to 3 AM.
- Haruki Murakami wakes up at 4 AM, writes for five hours, and then goes for a run.
The work of top creatives isn’t dependent upon motivation or inspiration, but rather it follows a consistent pattern and routine. Here are some examples of how you can apply ritual and routine to get motivated:
- Exercise more consistently: Use the same warm up routine in the gym.
- Become more creative: Follow a creative ritual before you start writing or painting or singing.
- Start each day stress-free: Create a five-minute morning meditation ritual.
- Sleep better: Follow a “power down” routine before bed.
The power of a ritual, or what I like to call a pre-game routine, is that it provides a mindless way to initiate your behavior. It makes starting your habits easier and that means following through on a consistent basis is easier.
The key to any good ritual is that it removes the need to make a decision: What should I do first? When should I do this? How should I do this? Most people never get moving because they can’t decide how to get started. You want starting a behavior to be easy and automatic so you have the strength to finish it when it becomes difficult and challenging.
Sent with Love