Whilst many of us may “knock on wood” to ensure good luck, not many would actually assume that it has a real effect on our situation. However, a 2013 study indicates that rituals and habits may actually enhance a person’s professional performance. Perhaps creatures of habit breed success.
Many of the most genius minds, both from the past and present, are creatures of habit. Some rituals form as a way of a good luck charm, others form a habit that constitutes a small part of our everyday routine. Yet, when you’re writing an international best-selling novel, playing professional sport or the CEO of a multi million dollar company, your life is usually subject to extraordinarily long working weeks and immense pressure. But, just as history repeats itself, it would appear that forming habits and rituals can increase the likelihood of success.
Founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg famously owns 20 grey T-shirts and blue jeans that he rotates 5 days a week. He even buys Red Bull by the carton. His company is worth $126US Billion. Whilst much of this success is due to intelligence and hard work, it seems as though his busy schedule doesn’t allow for tedious, unimportant decisions.
The late Steve Jobs notoriously owned 100 black turtle neck sweaters to wear on rotation. Michael Jordan wore North Carolina shorts underneath his Chicago Bulls uniform every game. Benjamin Franklin would spend a few hours every morning stark naked. David Karp, founder of Tumblr eats the same breakfast everyday, and Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter, themes every working day for every week of the year.
Whilst we all have little habits, lists or routines that make us feel like we are in control when life gets busy, all these rituals may seem rather obsessive. However, according to professors from Harvard University, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Current research is now suggesting that rituals in the office make good business sense. Whether it’s colour coding, staple meals or a routine 15 minute morning walk, studies now show that those who complete ritual tasks during periods of stress have a lower heart rate than those who don’t. It is suggested that this is due to the positive association people make with the familiar when they are under pressure.
Other academics believe that when we are extremely busy, small rituals allow us to bypass the smaller, insignificant decisions that take up extra time and cause unnecessary problem solving. Psychologist William James asserts that strict routine helps to unleash creativity. He states that the repetition of simplistic tasks allows us to “free our minds to advance to really interesting fields of action.”
In reality, everything we do is founded on a ritual to reduce stress and effort, whether it’s enjoying a coffee in the morning, reading a book before bed or wearing our favourite pair of shoes. However, it seems that the busier the person, the more need there is to harness this tactic – even if it means you have to pull a Benjamin Franklin and sit naked for a few hours every morning!
It would seem that practice really does make perfect – or pretty close to it.
Do you have any interesting habits or rituals you partake in daily or before stressful situations? Why not ask our aspirational mentors what rituals and habits help them concentrate and destress? Take a look at our Q&A board here.
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