Andrew Wood | Best-Selling Author

How Rituals Can Increase Your Performance

In Harvard Professor Ben-Shahar’s highly popular course in Positive Psychology, he teaches students how to be happy. One of his eleven happiness tips is to create rituals. He notes that “The most creative individuals, whether artists, businesspeople or parents have rituals that they follow. This routine frees them up to be creative and spontaneous.

Rituals can not only help you bond with employees or fans but can also help your personal performance. Composer Ludwig van Beethoven had several rituals he performed each day, like getting up early and making his own coffee, where he meticulously counted exactly sixty beans for each cup. After dinner each day he would go for a long walk but always carried a pencil and some music sheets in case genius hit him while out.

I start each day with a 5k walk (listening to an audio book, usually a biography or business book) so I get a big jump on my 10,000 steps a day before breakfast, and learn something while I’m at it!

Bjorn Borg always started to grow a beard before Wimbledon each year and would not shave it off until the event was finished. A similar ritual is taken up by many NFL, FHL and NBA player on the road to the championship game.

Basketball superstar Michael Jordan wore his North Carolina shorts underneath his Chicago Bulls shorts in every game.

Curtis Martin of the New York Jets reads Psalm 91 before every game. And Wade Boggs, former third baseman for the Boston Red Sox, woke up at the same time each day, ate chicken before each game, took exactly 117 ground balls in practice, took batting practice at 5:17, and ran sprints at 7:17. Although Boggs was not Jewish, he also wrote the Hebrew word Chai (“living”) in the dirt before each at bat.

In his native Jamaica, they call the move “To Di World” but elsewhere across the planet it is known as Usain Bolt’s signature move, the “Lighting Bolt,” or just plain “Bolting.” When the legendary sprint superstar bends one elbow and straightens the other at an angle toward the skies, crowds rise in appreciation and copy the move in numbers.

Watch any team sporting event from the NFL to the Premier league and you’ll see it at work: the “secret handshake.” Generally, a complex combination of subtle moves known only to teammates. The ritual handshakes of Free Masons go back hundreds of years. Now one can find such inside connections commonly on display from rap stars, athletes and even politicians.

Celebration rituals are not just for the players, many involve the fans.

For example, the band member diving off the stage and crowd surfing across the heads of the audience. Or the wave in a football stadium or the firing of the cannon when The Tampa Bay Buccaneer’s get inside the red zone at Raymond James Stadium.

Other rituals include the national anthem before a major sporting event, the jet fly over, the warm up laps, strawberries and cream at Wimbledon, and hats at the Derby. Consider the music you choose at a start of your seminar. For example, Anthony Robbins started many of his motivational events with Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best.” These are all are part of creating an iconic brand.

Instead of having our staff meetings on Monday mornings with coffee, we held ours at 5 pm in the TGI Friday’s bar and drank beers and ate nachos. Many a great idea happened after the 5th or 6th Heineken.

Your goal is to create rituals that resonate with your audience, both in building your own unique status and in meeting their needs.

Salespeople should develop a specific way to hand over the keys to a new home or car buyer and the celebration you build around the event. Every time I made a big purchase of either has been totally anti-climactic. All missed opportunities to build my loyalty and garner referrals!

What about the pen you hand customers to sign a new contract?

Perhaps give them a custom fountain pen in a nice box as a memento of the event?

Build a ritual celebration of new members or employees, or the fond farewell you give them when they leave. Rituals can increase our perception of value. In other words, if employees perform rituals as part of their jobs, they are likely to find their jobs more rewarding. And if consumers use a ritual to experience your product they are likely to enjoy it more and be willing to pay more for it.

What are some of your rituals?

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