Most stress comes from trying to control things that are out of our control; the weather, the economy, the stock market, the competition, the latest trends, what’s popular, other people’s behavior. When we focus on these external forces we become reactive and assume a victim role, finding ourselves feeling helpless, stressed out, anxious, and frantic. The more we try, the worse it gets.
The most successful people spend effort on what they can control, the rituals that prepare them for success.
How do successful people prepare? How does a basketball player get ready to make a free throw? How does a golfer prepare to sink the 20 foot birdie putt? How does the tennis player prepare to ace his opponent?
Rituals. They all develop rituals that are repeated over and over and over. Rituals under their control.
The best free throw shooters, putters, and servers all have rituals that they
execute every time. Every time. No matter what the score, what the competition is doing, or what external factors are at play.
In leadership and life rituals take the form of daily disciplines over which we have control and which keep us grounded and focused. Here are four rituals that you can develop which will reduce stress and improve productivity.
Checking in is the discipline of stopping long enough to listen and take stock of what’s going on with yourself and others. Check-ins are best done at the start of your day and can be as short as a few minutes. Personal check-ins include answering questions such as:
What emotions am I feeling?
What is my body telling me?
What are my goals for today?
What attitude will I have today?
What do I want to improve on today?
What choices will I make today to pursue my best self?
Team check-ins have a similar purpose and should be done at the beginning of meetings. Include questions such as:
How are you feeling today?
What concerns, desires, or special requests do you have?
What decisions are you facing?
What support or resources do you want from the team today?
Check-ins are a staple of centered individuals and cohesive teams. They prepare you and your team to face what’s next as an aligned unit. Whether and how they are conducted is under your control. Don’t let busy schedules or packed agendas derail your check-in. It is the most important ritual for making the most out of your team time.
Debriefing is the discipline of processing an experience to distill learning and move forward. Any project, goal, or milestone should have regular debriefs built in. Typical debrief questions include:
How are we feeling about the experience?
Were we successful? Why or why not?
What worked and what didn’t work?
What will we do differently next time?
How do we want to act with each other going forward?
Debriefing prepares you for what’s next by turning mistakes into stepping stones for success. Neither success nor failure, nor any external events should stop a debrief. It is completely under your control.
Imagine a basketball team that amped up its enthusiasm in the huddle even when they were behind. Imagine a work team that kept true to their rules of engagement no matter what their clients’ whims were that day. Positive attitude is not blind faith. It is the courage to believe in people and in the value of struggling with purpose. It is the creativity to find pockets of success even during a setback. It is refusing to allow fear, doubt, and anxiety to have control. It is the guts to cast a vision for tomorrow that’s better than today.
Positive attitude prepares you to face risk and adversity with no loss of enthusiasm. It is independent of what happens to you. It’s under your control.
The most resilient people and teams celebrate often. They never let busy schedules, the next deadline, or a setback stop them from relishing the positives. They affirm each other and delight in even the smallest successes. And they don’t wait for the win to celebrate because they know celebration is an attitude towards life, not dependent on what happens to them.
Celebrating prepares you to face the next challenge knowing that your community is behind you and there will be joy again in the future.
Develop rituals of checking in, debriefing, positive attitude, and celebration to focus your energy on what you can control. By doing this you will experience less stress, more satisfaction, and greater productivity.
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