Updated: May 6
To experience genuine and lasting happiness, we need two things. One, the felt sense that we are evolving and growing, and two, the felt sense that we are making a contribution to our family, our community, and/or the world. I’m assuming that you are interested in both of these essential ingredients to a fulfilling life.
The first step is to create a vision and set specific, concrete, and measurable goals that will enable us to actually manifest that vision. In a previous blog, I have discussed extensively how to create that life plan. But what will actually allow us to reach our goals? What is going to help us make our vision a reality? The key is how we conduct our days, day in and day out.
In this blog, we will explore how to make sure we follow through with the intentions we have set for our lives using the life plan strategy. I will introduce a simple but powerful tool to help you create the future you long for, called “Daily Ceremony.” The daily ceremony is an expression used by one of my spiritual teachers to describe the collection of activities, rituals, routines and habits that make up our days. Whatever our daily ceremony happens to be will directly influence our ability to manifest the future we long for.
If we want our daily activities to produce the outcomes we're looking for, we're going to have to design that. Otherwise, even though we're trying really hard, our pre-established habitual patterns are going to take over, or we will be swimming upstream against those habits.
The first step in designing our daily ceremony is to determine what our current ceremony is. What is our actual collection of daily activities, rituals, and habits, both positive and productive, as well as not-so-positive?
To accomplish this task I would invite you to use a journal and begin tracking exactly what you did yesterday, from the time you woke up till the time you went to sleep. Then, track what you did the day before, and the day before that. Get at least a week down, hour by hour, minute by minute. Ask yourself “What did I actually do?” Make a list of your morning rituals, how you're taking care of yourself, your exercise routine, your meals, your rest breaks, your work tasks, your transit time (if you're commuting to work), the time spent with family and friends, all your activities, from the time you get up in the morning till the time you go to bed at night.
We are attempting to identify consistent patterns. So if you were on vacation last week, that's not the week you want to use. You might have to go back several weeks to examine a sufficiently representative period of time. Get really detailed about it, and then start studying your lists. Look for patterns. What are the consistent sort of behaviors and habits that keep recurring, the default mode that tends to steer how you lead your life?
Once you see the patterns, that's your ceremony. And that daily ceremony is really influencing how you are manifesting in life right now, the results you are creating for yourself. That is because our activities are what produce outcomes in terms of our general health, our work life, our domestic situation, and the quality of our relationships. Of course, our activities are not the sole determinant of what we're manifesting--who we are being as we accomplish these activities also influences the outcomes. Nonetheless, we need to start with the activities themselves.
Once you get a clear picture of what your current ceremony is, then look at it in relation to the life plan you have created previously and just ask yourself the question – “How is this particular set of habits and behaviors likely to create what I want to achieve, what I want to manifest in my life?”
Probably, the answer will be “not very likely.” This is because what we're talking about here relates to our aspirations to grow, to evolve, and to expand our possibilities and our contribution to life, which means we are going to need to make adjustments in our current set of activities, rituals, and habits. Having acknowledged this, we can then decide to focus on a particular domain of our life. No need to try to accomplish everything at once.
For example, when we first did the life wheel exercise, we might have identified eight domains we want to focus on (which could include health, finances, relationships, work, creativity, spiritual life, etc). Then we set specific, measurable goals for each.
The next step is to design and incorporate into our schedule specific activities that will help us reach these goals. (To begin with, it’s perfectly fine to focus on one or two domains, and with time, include more of them.) So, let's say we start with our physical health, and let’s say one of the goals we had previously defined was to get enough rest. We ask ourselves: what do I need to change about my daily life ceremony to reach this goal. In order to have some kind of regular ceremony, we pretty much need to get up at the same time every day--generally, the earlier the better--which means we need to go to bed at night early enough. When we don't get enough sleep, we have trouble getting up the next morning.
So making that commitment to get to bed early becomes part of our ceremony. And then, of course, we need to build exercise into our routine. We need to design a good nutritional diet. We might also consider adding breath regulation exercises that we do throughout the day.
Once we have identified various activities and habits related to better rest, we pick another category. We could, for instance, look at the quality of our primary relationship, or our financial health, whatever it might be. We start designing all these activities into our schedule and we keep working at it until we have a daily life ceremony that touches on all the domains of our life that are important to us.
You might wonder… How long will I need to repeat these activities for them to become habits and create results? The research says that it's not that cut-and-dried. It could be anywhere from 45 days to 120 days, maybe even longer. One important thing to know is that setbacks and lapses don't compromise the benefits all that much, as long as you keep getting back on the horse and continue moving forward. And, all the way along, whatever the new activity is, you are benefitting from it, however many days it takes to establish the habit.
The important thing is to just stick with it and create consistency. Sooner or later it will become a habit and become easier and easier, as you develop momentum. In fact, if you skip a day, you will feel strange because that activity has become an encoded part of your brain, and your neural pathways and neuro-physiology have reorganized themselves around the new habit or routine. At this point, we could say it has become an ingrained behavior, a positive habitual routine.
Some of you may be thinking, "Oh boy, this sounds so burdensome. I just want to go with the flow. I don’t need a daily routine. I want to be spontaneous!" The problem with that approach is that I can guarantee you your old habitual patterns are going to take over and be the driving force in your life.
Most of those habitual patterns are based on conditioning from our early childhood and inherited from our family or cultural legacy. Some of that conditioning may serve us, or once did, but much of it does not. We all have to realize that conditioning is our baseline, and if we want to change, evolve and fulfill our dreams and aspirations, we are the only ones who can make it happen.
That’s the idea of a life by design, which implies that either we are designing our life, or our life is being designed by past conditioning and present circumstances. Why not claim our freedom and embrace a mindset of self-leadership and self-determination.
Of course, it's not easy. We all have obstacles and problems getting in our way. Most of us usually spend our lives stuck between our past conditioning and the current circumstances we are facing, bombarded by difficulties and setbacks, and living in a very reactive, mechanical way. But it does not have to be this way. We could instead entertain the idea that our future is determined by how we respond to our life circumstances--both internal circumstances within ourselves, as well as external circumstances in the world around us. It may take a lot of courage and tremendous hard work to not go along with our conditioning, to not just live in that reactive space, but we can do it.
We can decide to wake up and become conscious, instead of living like a programmed robot. We can choose how to respond to both internal and external circumstances. We can venture on the path of conscious living, into a wakeful life, into a great destiny. What an extraordinary and exciting way to live!
I hope you find this helpful. I would encourage you to not limit yourselves with only setting goals for where you want your life to go (with your health, finances, career, relationships, etc), but really take the time to design how you are going to get there. To do so, consider at least looking at your daily life ceremony, which is the actual foundation for manifesting your vision. Your daily ceremony will drive what you actually end up doing and creating, day in and day out. And that is going to determine whether or not you manifest the life of your dreams.