A self-righting mechanism

Until now, I’ve got by with just three rituals. A morning ritual, an evening ritual and a pre-work ritual. But yesterday I realised I needed something more. 

Here’s an example. Sometimes I ignore my alarm, skip my morning ritual, begin writing later than usual, stop writing earlier than planner, and then waste hours dicking around on YouTube and Reddit. Then, whilst doing that, I feel bad for wasting the day, so I beat myself up and spiral downward into ever-greater circles of self-loathing and lethargy.

Of course, there are things I know I can and should do to break this cycle. I should go outside. I should get off the iPad and do some stretches. I should put my phone in a drawer and start reading. I should practise gratitude and mindfulness. I should, but I don’t.

Why? I think it’s because I don’t have a decided-upon, definite response to an inevitable event. It’s a certainty that I’m going to wake up every day and go to bed every night—barring the recall of my mortality. And it’s a certainty that I’m going to write practically every day. I’ve recognised that and developed three rituals to accompany these events. Is it not just as likely that I’m going to get distracted, distressed and discouraged at some point in the future? Of course. So today, I’m adding a fourth ritual. I’ll call it a “reset”. Often, when a piece of tech is going berserk all you need to do is reset it, turn it on and off again. The similarity between our brain and computers has been noticed, so perhaps, when we’re struggling, all we need is a reset?

With that end in mind, I’ve come up with the following barebones reset ritual: Stretch/Shake – Sit – Determine Next Action – Do It. Allow me to annotate briefly.

Stretch/Shake – The mind is linked to the body. Stimulating one stimulates the other. This is a simple exploit of that connection. By moving your body, your mindset shifts, and usually in a positive direction.

Sit – Not “meditate”, not “be grateful”, not “feel love and kindness for all beings”. No. Just sit and be a human being. Make a beverage—hot or cold, depending on time constraints—and drink it. Do nothing but that. No external stimulation or source of information. Just sit. Be a person. 

Determine Next Action – After you’ve sat for a while, start thinking about your priorities, either for the day or on a meta-level. From this reflection on priorities, it’ll become clear what your next action should be. Maybe it’s “chill the fuck out” or “take the rest of the day off”. Maybe it’s “finish the last piece of that project”. Whatever it is, focus only on that. Not what is coming after it, or what you need to do tomorrow. Bend your will and focus only on the next thing you’re going to do. Do not extrapolate further than that.

Do It – No explanation needed.

Did you ever watch Robot Wars? Some of the robots would get flipped and flounder, unable to right themselves. Others could be tossed on their back and bounce right back. With the implementation of a reset ritual, I’m giving myself the ability to self-right myself. Like morning, evening and work rituals, it doesn’t have to be complex and intricate. In fact, it’s best if it’s not; complexity will make it more likely that I won’t do it. It just has to be a few small, simple, easy things that allow me to climb out of a hole and regain my equilibrium.