I was fortunate enough in college to have a mentor who also served as my spiritual director. He was a priest/professor with kind eyes, a soft voice, and a delightful habit of standing on his tip toes during sermons and lectures to drive home his point.
He taught me many things before he died from cancer at the end of my junior year, but the most useful was creating purposeful ritual as a way to deal with change.
The college I attended was Catholic and if there is one thing I think Catholicism does well, it's ritual.
In fact one of the greatest helps to me in transitioning to a college that was several hours from home was attending mass on weekends. Despite the change in scenery, I took great comfort in following the same routine I’d followed every Sunday of my entire life.
So it’s no surprise that every time I found myself negotiating a change, Father Drexler’s suggestion was to ritualize it.
What did he mean by that?
Establish a routine, but be very deliberate and purposeful about that routine.
This can be especially helpful in dealing with transition - starting a new job - moving to a new house - but it can also be useful in changing a habit.
When I first moved to Maine I was unemployed, and I set up a room in my house to workout. When it became clear that I needed to get out of the house during the day to preserve both my sanity and my relationship, I joined my first gym.
That’s right, I joined my first gym when I was 33.
And it was intimidating - especially since it was a World Gym with 90% cardio machines and 10% weights. The weight area was mostly filled with men who seemed to know what they were doing. And then me.
Despite growing up around sports and athletics, going to the gym was stretching my comfort zone significantly and the first few weeks were awkward and uncomfortable for me.
So I created a ritual. Before I left the house, and once I got to the gym.
Before I left the house I made a protein shake, filled my water bottle, and printed out my program for the day. I made a playlist for the gym.
It was that simple and that boring.
When I got to the gym, I did my foam rolling routine, which was the same everyday and still is six years later, and I followed my warm up from my program. I put my headphones in.
I used the same tiny area of the gym.
I listened to the same playlist.
I took comfort in the ritual.
Regardless of the change you are wanting to make, find a way to ritualize the routine.
Make it yours.