The Power of Rituals With Dr. Michael Norton

by Ryan Goulart

Being happy all the time is unrealistic — and it might not even be good for you, says Dr. Michael Norton, professor at Harvard Business School and author of “The Ritual Effect: From Habit to Ritual, Harness the Surprising Power of Everyday Actions.”

Having studied happiness and well-being, Michael found that making the ideal real requires a diversity of emotions. “The ideal emotional setting is not ‘happy all the time,’” Michael says. “It’s a rich mix, and we should actually be rooting to be sad a little bit some of the time in order to experience that and learn from that and grow as a person.”

This extends to habits and rituals, which can be powerful tools for organizing our lives. But habits without variation lead to an uninteresting life, Michael says, so the trick is figuring out when you need rituals to create certainty and when you should disrupt your routine.

In this episode of Making the Ideal Real, we’re speaking with Michael about the power of rituals, their connection to emotions and what the downsides of ritual look like.

The Role of Emotions in Rituals

Rituals span our entire lives, from small daily habits to how we celebrate life-changing events or mourn someone who’s passed on. And with such a range, what all rituals have in common is how they pair with emotions. 

“Sometimes we want to feel calm, sometimes we want to feel excited, sometimes we want to feel grief, sometimes we want to feel love,” Michael says. “In all of these cases, people can turn to these rituals to sort of prompt these kinds of emotions.”

Rituals also are a tool for handling stress, as can famously be seen in the routines of world-class athletes like tennis legend Rafael Nadal. At work, Michael adds, we can use rituals as a distraction — something to stop us from focusing on nervousness, fear or whatever else.

Because of this emotional connection, not every ritual works for everyone. Start with a self-assessment of what rituals you have, even if you haven’t really noticed before. Then, look around. Ask trusted co-workers, friends and family about their rituals. 

After that, experiment. “It might be that going to the bathroom and yelling at yourself isn’t motivating for you, but you can try out different sorts of rituals and see if they can have an emotional impact on you,” Michael says.

How Rituals Add Spice to the Mundane

One way to think about rituals is as our ongoing habits. We sometimes perform these without much conscious thought, but when they’re interrupted, we feel the difference. And the difference between an automatic, dry habit and a ritual can be subtle, such as how we view the act.

Consider your morning routine. “Some people have to have coffee first, then talk to their spouse, then read their email,” Michael says. “And other people have to read their email first, and coffee comes third.” 

Described simply as a series of tasks, this habit seems mechanical and unimportant. But if this routine helps you truly feel better about starting your day, then it’s now a ritual — and important to your well-being. 

“It’s not that we have to go get a robe and candles and start chanting,” he says. “We can use the things in our environment and make them filled with more emotion and meaning.” 

Leaders can apply this in the workplace, both directly and in the culture they influence. When teams organically develop rituals, they can foster camaraderie, commitment and mutual support. 

Michael talks about a five-person team in which, once a week, everybody brought in lunch for everyone else. This effort kept everyone fed, encouraged community and showed mutual care. 

The Downsides of Rituals

You probably don’t even realize all the longtime rituals you practice. Only after studying rituals did Michael recognize his pre-class ritual for teaching at Harvard Business School.

“Thirty minutes before, I start pacing around the room, running through my plan for the class, then I write my plan down on yellow-lined paper,” he says. “If it’s white paper, I can do it, but I’m not happy. It feels weird. And the yellow lined paper is in a … black leather binder that my dad gave me 20 years ago.”

Another potential downside of rituals is what happens when something goes wrong. If a ritual occurs, it can feel good and help us get through our day. But when it gets disrupted or interrupted, we can feel the opposite effect. 

“They do have a risk in the sense that when we start to rely on them, we’re also relying on them,” Michael says. “And so if we can’t do them, then there’s a problem.”

Rituals also can become compulsive, he adds, as “you lose the link between ‘I’m doing this in order to do something else’ and you just end up doing the ritual itself.” While that threshold is different for every person and can’t be casually applied, it’s something worth considering.

“We need to calibrate when and where we use rituals,” Michael says, “because they can have these negative consequences.”

People in This Episode

Dr. Michael Norton: LinkedIn, website, books, The Ritual Effect

Transcript

Dr. Michael Norton:

You could imagine that what rituals do is make us feel a certain thing no matter what. Rituals make us feel happy or they make us feel something. But when you look at where we use rituals in our lives — so, we use them for weddings and for funerals — it’s kind of the opposite sorts of events. And for me, that’s important because it says they’re not just, “This is a thing that you can do in order to feel joy or whatever the emotion might be,” but that they’re kind of tools that humans have used over thousands of years in all kinds of different occasions to try to prompt all kinds of different experiences.

Ryan Goulart:

That’s Dr. Mike Norton, professor at Harvard Business School, an author of The Ritual Effect: From Habit to Ritual, Harness the Surprising Power of Everyday Actions. I’m Ryan Goulart, and you are Making the Ideal Real.

I have with me today Mike Norton, the author of The Ritual Effect. Mike, welcome to Making the Ideal Real.

Dr. Michael Norton:

Thank you, Ryan. It’s awesome to be here.

Ryan Goulart:

You’re a new guest, so our listeners know exactly where I’m going with our next question. Here we go. Mike, what does making the ideal real mean to you?

Dr. Michael Norton:

The first thing that came to mind with that question was — so I used to study happiness and well-being, and kind of implicit when you study happiness and well-being is “more is good.” We’re trying to uncover things that help people have more happiness and less sadness. And we made some progress, but not all the progress. But what happened over time is that I realized that an ideal life isn’t really one where you’re a 10 out of 10 happy every single day all the time, because I think you might go crazy if there’s no variation in your happiness.

And so we had done this research a few years ago — unfortunately, we named it emodiversity, which is a mistake — but it’s basically that the diversity of our emotions is important for overall how we feel about our lives. So in fact, some sadness and some fear and some anxiety, also a lot of happiness and the other positive things, that actually makes for a rich, interesting life. And so if we think about, weirdly, the ideal emotional setting is not “happy all the time.” It’s a rich mix, and we should actually be rooting to be sad a little bit some of the time in order to experience that and learn from that and grow as the person.

Ryan Goulart:

Whoa. I mean, you just blew my mind within the first 90 seconds of this podcast.

Dr. Michael Norton:

We should just stop right now. Let’s just stop right now.

Ryan Goulart:

Yeah. We’re done. Thank you so much. No.

That’s fantastic. I love how you kind of clarified that, and it’s really similar to a lot of the things that we’re going to talk about today about the ritual effect and what are those things that keep that going.

I want to switch over to something you just said though about that emotional diversity of the items that we have to experience. And then there’s the other component of that. I think what you just hit on about how people either project themselves out to be, “I need to be happy all of the time.” What role does something that you articulate — the habitual mindset — what role does that play in some of those mental constructs we create for ourselves?

Dr. Michael Norton:

Yeah, I mean, I think I’m not anti-habit. I think good habits are good. I should exercise more. I should eat better. I should stop procrastinating. So I never mean habits are bad, don’t have good habits. Of course, we should have good habits. But, if I think about a life of completely perfect habits where you always execute exactly the optimal thing in every moment, you eat only the food that has the right amount of protein, you always get up at the same time of day, and you do that for 50 years, you’d be very healthy, but would that be an interesting life? Would you look back and say, “I’m so happy that I never deviated from my good habits”? If your kid comes in and says, “Hey, do you want to go out for pizza?” And you say, “No, I can’t go out for pizza. I have to have this meal today because…”

I mean I’m exaggerating, obviously, but I do think there’s something about the individual mindset that gets us into optimizing. And optimizing is great. Again, we should all be healthier, I think. But what are you optimizing on? And if you’re only optimizing on good habits, if that’s all you think about, I don’t know if, again, after 50 years you’d look and say, “That was a really great life. I’m really glad I spent all my time maximizing and optimizing my habits.” Just to think about what else could you be optimizing as well.

And we have found that rituals are one of the ways that can make life more emotional, more meaningful, more interesting. There’s a million ways to do that, including just say, yes when your kid wants to go out for pizza. But rituals, this ritual mindset, I think about it as one of the ways that we can bump ourselves out of habit, habit, habit toward other things in life as well.

Ryan Goulart:

Yeah. So tell us a little bit more about that. What does that look like when we do operate sometimes automatically about doing the same thing over and over again? And you can extrapolate that from an individual perspective, but then you zoom out to an organizational perspective, and it gets exponentially harder. So what are some things that you’ve found through your research or your experiences that really have helped that come to life?

Dr. Michael Norton:

One of the things that is interesting to me is — by the way, when I say rituals, I don’t mean people in robes with candles chanting in Latin or whatever. I mean the small, little everyday kinds of rituals that we might do. Even something as simple as your morning ritual. Some people have to have coffee first, then talk to their spouse, then read their email. And other people have to read their email first, and coffee comes third. And when they do it in that order, it starts to feel good. They feel like they’re ready for their day. And if they get interrupted or do it in the wrong order, people will say, “I feel a little weird. I felt off. I didn’t feel quite ready for the day.”

And so if you think about a habit as, “Every morning, I’ve got to drink coffee and talk to my spouse,” that’s a pretty dry, automatic kind of life. But if you think about it as, “My morning is the thing that I do to get ready for the day,” well, now it’s a little bit more of a ritual. And so rituals can actually make even really mundane things in life have a little bit more flavor and a little bit more life. It’s not like brushing your teeth is going to be the most amazing experience of your life no matter what. But if it’s like I always brush my teeth first, then I shower, then I have my coffee or whatever the order is, people will say, “When I can do it in that order, it really does make me feel differently about my day.” And I think that’s one of the potentials of rituals. It’s not that we have to go get a robe and candles and start chanting. We can use the things in our environment and make them filled with more emotion and meaning.

Ryan Goulart:

And I would have to say, brushing teeth is the easy part; the flossing thing always gets you. It just always gets me, Mike.

Dr. Michael Norton:

It’s too much.

Ryan Goulart:

It’s so much. Yeah. It’s like I have to ask myself, you got to do it, Ry. But I feel better, too. So what inspired you to even go down this path through your research and your experiences to get to this?

Dr. Michael Norton:

It’s funny as you said that, when you said, “You got to do this, Ryan,” a very common thing that people say is when they’re trying to motivate themselves or if they’re nervous, got to give a big presentation at work or something like that, people will very commonly say, “Well, what I do is I go into the bathroom and make sure nobody’s in there, and then I talk to myself in the mirror.” Not everybody does that of course, but it’s surprisingly common, or at least they talk to themselves in their head looking at themselves in the mirror. On the one hand, you can see that as very, very strange behavior because how can you talk to yourself? It’s you on both ends. And why would you look at yourself in the mirror in the bathroom so nobody can see. But it’s a little bit of a ritual that we do.

Thinking about these little things that we do, they come naturally to us often. Often we’re already doing them. And we try to help people see, “Look at these interesting things that are already going on under the surface for you.”

Ryan Goulart:

So you’re saying keep doing that?

Dr. Michael Norton:

I’m not that kind of psychologist, so I think that’s out of my pay range or something.

Ryan Goulart:

No, no. But even as you think about, what did you notice, what did you observe, that inspired this book, inspired this discipline for you?

Dr. Michael Norton:

It’s funny because I had been studying rituals for a little bit. I mean, I’m a nerd academic professor, so from this very removed kind of “Let’s examine this thing that the humans seem to be doing.” I was thinking to myself, “I’m not really a rituals guy. I don’t really go for that new age, whatever kind of stuff,” is really how I felt. But then after I started studying rituals, I did realize I was doing them a lot. So one of the ones that I really noticed was that every time I teach here in the classroom, before I teach, 30 minutes before, I start pacing around the room, running through my plan for the class, then I write my plan down on yellow lined paper. If it’s white paper, I can do it, but I’m not happy. It feels weird. And the yellow lined paper is in a black binder, black leather binder, that my dad gave me 20 years ago. I’ve done that exact same thing before every single class I’ve taught at HBS, and I never realized I was doing it until after I started studying rituals. And then I said, “Wow.”

Because if you looked like a bird’s eye view of me every day and you sped up the tape really fast, you would see me doing the exact same thing over and over, years and years. And it didn’t dawn on me until I started studying this. And then I realized, you know what? I do this because, just like talking to yourself in the mirror, it makes me feel like I’m more ready to go.

Ryan Goulart:

That’s super interesting. As you kind of think about rituals, what are some rituals that you observed through your study that really did spotlight what humans as a whole can start to do to make themselves — maybe even before I even ask that, is it OK to project onto what you said earlier about ways to optimize ourselves? Because my question inherently had that bias to it of like, well, “Mike, can you tell me how I can get better if I just apply these rituals?” But maybe that’s not how it’s supposed to go, so help me.

Dr. Michael Norton:

Yeah, I do think it is this sense of, “What are you aiming for in general in these things?” And what has been interesting is that we see rituals in every domain of life. So I mean, we start studying rituals, and then we talk to somebody and they’d say, “Hey, did you ever look at it in romantic couples?” And we’d say, “No,” and then we’d study that. And then somebody else would say, “What about families?” And we’d say, “No,” and we’d study that. “What about teams that work?” “No,” and we’d study that.

And so we started seeing across all these different domains of life that — not everyone, not all the time — but many people are using these little kinds of rituals. Even in the couples domain, we find the couples that say they have little rituals that they do say that they feel more committed to the relationship and they feel more satisfied in the relationship. One of the ones I loved was a couple that every time before they eat they clink their forks together three times. So simple, so small, it’s not like a $6,000 date night every other…. You know what I mean? It’s not that kind of thing, although those can be useful, too. But it’s these little rituals that couples have that really are a signal of the health of the relationship. That’s the kind that I’ve been so interested in, is these mundane — what could be more boring than a fork? I mean, a fork is used to put a thing in your mouth. That’s the only thing it’s used for. They have turned it into this expression of love because they’ve been doing it over time. They know they’re going to keep doing it together. These are the things that I just find really interesting.

Ryan Goulart:

Yeah, I mean, I’m just right now just rolling through my head of like, do I have anything like that? But I don’t know if I do, or maybe I need to get my awareness up.

Dr. Michael Norton:

Do you have pet nicknames for each other?

Ryan Goulart:

Yes.

Dr. Michael Norton:

There you go.

Ryan Goulart:

All right.

Dr. Michael Norton:

There you go.

Ryan Goulart:

All right.

What are some other rituals that you observed, too, in humans that… Even when you looked at the teams, for example, were there things that people or team behaviors that were classified as that ritual type of thing?

Dr. Michael Norton:

Yes, and I’m glad you asked that because often when we talk about team rituals at work, the most common response is a huge eye roll because people are thinking of corporate retreats and you do a trust fall or something like that. They’re terrible. They’re mandated. You got to do these things.

I guess those can be effective. But, when we study it, again just like the four clinking together, we’re looking for little things that teams come up with themselves. And so something as simple… There was a team where it was a five-member team. Each of them had one day a week where they were responsible for bringing lunch to everybody. And they’d been doing it for a long time, and they’re going to keep doing it going forward. Lunch is lunch. I mean, everybody’s going to eat lunch every day. But they turned it into this little ritual that they do right where each day everyone’s responsible for one of the days. So it’s almost like every person is taking care of the group one time a week. It’s just through lunch, but you can see how it shows, “We’re not just coworkers. There’s something more to this team than just co-workers because of these rituals that we do.”

Ryan Goulart:

Hey listeners, Ryan here. Mike talked about the ideal and real constantly in balance. What we also know is practice makes permanent, practice does not make perfect. When it comes to values, commit them to memory so that you know where to go.

Visit www.think2perform.com/values to learn more.

Where I’m going in my head right now, where you just saw me think, is it definitely aligns to a lot of the things that I’ve read in what a company even means is the ability to break bread with someone and to step out of your role or your identity within a team to actually break bread. I mean, it was something that Rockefeller did with Standard Oil, is they would have meals together. So that’s really interesting that even something simple as breaking bread together and having that be the responsibility of the team member to get more human almost.

Dr. Michael Norton:

That’s right. And you can see how different it would be if the manager said, “Every day at noon you have to go in that room and eat lunch together,” which just feels very different than, “We decide as a team that this is something we’re going to do on a repeated basis.”

Ryan Goulart:

So there’s an autonomous component to it, almost. It’s like, “I choose this type of ritual,” rather than being observed as something that’s being done to me.

Dr. Michael Norton:

Yeah. Sometimes when people force you to do ritual or force you to do anything, you get reactants, which is just like literally, “You’re not the boss of me.” So that’s not a good starting place for bonding between people is that kind of feeling. Although it is funny because sometimes when managers come — they saw a TED Talk or something — and they come in and want to change everything up, the employees will kind of eye roll in unison at the manager, which is actually kind of funny because they’re doing a behavior in synchrony, and they are sharing a moment and sharing a thought. So the employees actually are bonding in a weird way. It’s just at the expense of the manager instead of what the manager intended.

Ryan Goulart:

So I mean, it definitely brings into a need for — even within a leadership construct, too, if you were to take this — that there’s things that a leader does that influences the team. And so the leader needs to become more aware of some of those tendencies to really make the team that much more powerful.

Dr. Michael Norton:

For sure. And I think the way that it doesn’t work… I mean, if I had discovered a magical ritual that worked on every human, I probably would’ve quit my job by now. But imagine if everybody claps three times and stomps two times and yells these three words, they’ll love each other forever. Imagine that world — doesn’t exist, but imagine that’s actually what we found. Well, then we could actually just say to every manager, “Hey, just have them do the three-clap thing.” But that’s not how it works.

So when a manager comes in, they can’t just say, “Everybody do this specific thing,” because it’s not going to resonate with everybody. But when teams come up with it themselves, they’re often doing something that reflects something about them as individuals and as a team. And so of course it’s going to be more meaningful than a cookie cutter approach coming from on high.

Ryan Goulart:

Right. Right, right. There’s a lot of things that we’ve learned through our own work with leaders, and that is definitely so true in that our CEO often says that it’s the leader, it’s always the leader, when we’re trying to assess various things. The ritual component of what a leader does and kind of providing some context to it, could be a really powerful tendency that a leader can do. What I’m reflecting on right now, my team would laugh at me at this point because I’m probably that person that will read a book and then all of a sudden bring all like, “Guess what? We’re all going to do this thing.” And I would imagine there’s a little bit of like, “Oh, there he goes again.”

But, it’s well-intended. And I do have that ritual. One of my rituals is that I drop my 3 year old off at daycare, and then I’m an audiobook guy. So I do still drive to the office; I listen to books, 30 minutes. I do it in small chunks so that I can digest it and be able to put that learning into practice that day.

Dr. Michael Norton:

I love that. I will say, I remember talking to, I was at a company and asking, not in the context of rituals but just, “How do you feel about your manager?” And they really loved their manager, this group. And I asked the manager, “How do you think they feel about you?” And he said, “Well, here’s what I do.” And he said, “I do this thing and this thing.” And they were the kind of, “Saw a TED Talk, heard a podcast, let’s try these things out.” You know what I mean? And, “I did this one, and that built this feeling in the team, and I did this one.” He had the whole thing going.

So I went back to the team and I said, “What makes you really like your manager?” And they said, “Well, he does these annoying things from time to time, but what makes us really like him is that he asks after our families, and he knows the names of our kids.” I’m just saying, even though you do these things sometimes, if employees are on board and feel respected, they’ll let you get away with it. If they already hate you, you’re in real trouble if you try these things out.

Ryan Goulart:

So one of the things that you keep mentioning or the wording, even how you started off this conversation, was about emotion and what it feels like to the person to practice the ritual. What kind of insight do you have there to either continue with a ritual or to decide to choose something different or quit it?

Dr. Michael Norton:

Yeah. One crazy thing that we see with rituals is that we use them to prompt all kinds of different emotions. So, you could imagine that what rituals do is make us feel a certain thing no matter what. Rituals make us feel happy, or they make us feel something. But when you look at where we use rituals in our lives — so we use them for weddings and for funerals, so kind of the opposite sorts of events. We use them to amp ourselves up before a game with our team, and we also use them to calm ourselves down sometimes. So they’re incredibly flexible and versatile in that we use them, sometimes we want to feel calm, sometimes we want to feel excited, sometimes we want to feel grief, sometimes we want to feel love. In all of these cases, people can turn to these rituals to sort of prompt these kinds of emotions.

And for me, that’s because it says they’re not just, “This is a thing that you can do in order to feel joy or whatever the emotion might be.” But that they’re kind of tools that humans have used over thousands of years in all kinds of different occasions to try to prompt all kinds of different experiences.

Ryan Goulart:

And either intentionally or not, right? Based on what you just said, too, even with those two celebrations, would you say that rituals play a role in helping create predictability when there’s a lot of change or uncertainty that humans experience every day?

Dr. Michael Norton:

Even if you look at elite performers. So if I were to play tennis, before I served I’d probably bounce the ball a couple times and then serve. Rafael Nadal has a 97-step thing that he does before every single serve, including picking his wedgie, which is pretty funny. But you can see how the stress and uncertainty of performing at that level prompts actually more elaborate rituals. Whereas if I’m serving or even if I’m teaching my class, that’s not as hard as playing in the French Open. So we do, in fact, at a cultural level, you can see that as stress increases, one of the things that humans bring is greater ritual. They kind of use it as a tool and a little bit calibrate the level of ritual with the level of uncertainty.

So I think for sure, one of the things they help us with is to give us a little bit of predictability. And even with, for example, trying to calm yourself down when you’re anxious, doing a ritual, one of the things that it does is it just gets you out of your own head. You can’t keep thinking, “I’m so anxious. I’m so anxious,” if you’re engaged in something else. And so they can help us with this regularity, kind of stop us from going off the rails and keep us a little more on track.

Ryan Goulart:

Wow. So, it can pump you up, it can ground you. Interesting. Yeah, I really like that.

Dr. Michael Norton:

It’s crazy, right? The opposite things, yeah.

Ryan Goulart:

This is just viewing my entire life right now. But, as you kind think about what you said, too, about stress and uncertainty and the way that those rituals help us in those areas, is it also true, too, then that there’s some rituals that do us a disservice? So did you see anything within your research and study that we’re able to just show the “you have to quit those as fast as you can” type of thing?

Dr. Michael Norton:

I’m so glad you asked that because the takeaway is not, “Add rituals everywhere all day long, and then you’ve got life’s all for sure.” I think in two ways, rituals can come with risk. One is, even if you go back to coffee and then email in the morning, if you have this ritual, if it’s disrupted, well now you’re kind of worse off. So when you have a ritual and you can enact it, it does feel good and props the emotion you want. But if it gets disrupted, then you’re feeling off all day. So they do have a risk in the sense that when we start to rely on them, we’re also relying on them. And so if we can’t do them, then there’s a problem.

And that’s the second thing, which is if we start doing them too much. So, many people are familiar with obsessive compulsive disorder. One of the things there is that we’re often doing a ritual in order to accomplish something else. So I’m brushing my teeth and showering and having coffee in that order so that I feel ready to start my day and I can leave my house and go to work. But with OCD, what can happen is that the ritual itself becomes the thing that you’re trying to get done. You lose the link between, “I’m doing this in order to do something else,” and you just end up doing the ritual itself. And that’s when we say that it’s starting to interfere with your life and with the things that you really want to do.

Now, we don’t know exactly what is the level at which rituals go from being helpful to not helpful; it varies a lot from person to person. But I think about it a lot in terms of, “We need to calibrate when and where we use rituals because they can have these negative consequences.”

Ryan Goulart:

Yeah. And in many ways, too, I would imagine that it’s … even to something that — getting back to the coffee, email, feel ready for the day — could also be some health risks, too. I mean, classic example is smartphone use. I mean, those are likely rituals that people use to calm themselves down. I mean, I think there’s some various research out there that suggests that if you’re watching something in a movie and it feels like it emotionally stimulates you negatively, that’s when you’re going to likely pick up your phone. There’s a lot of little things like that we do so unconsciously. Because I mean the smartphone, we probably could do another podcast about that, and just what it is for the human pacifier.

Dr. Michael Norton:

Yep.

Ryan Goulart:

Again, like I said, a classic example here is that I’ll just tell a little bit of a story and you can be like, “Yeah, Ryan, that’s exactly what I’m talking about.”

Dr. Michael Norton:

Or, “Ryan, you need professional help.” Let’s see where it goes. Let’s see where it goes.

Ryan Goulart:

That’s probably true, too. But anyway, so I went to work from home on Tuesday. My wife had the day off, too. We decided to get breakfast, go out, go and sit at a restaurant and have breakfast. But in my head, and I haven’t told her this, so hopefully she listens to this and just is like, “Wow, that’s why you were off.” No, it was cognitive dissonance of not being able to start my day with work and how I just felt like I was not… It’s like 8 o’clock in the morning, so it’s not like I’m taking the day off and doing something different. But it was just literally a cognitive dissonance in my head of this weird sensation of feeling off, and you started this whole thing with that people feel off when their ritual isn’t completed. And it was true for me; it was profound in many ways, and it made me think. I’m like, “Wow, I like to think of myself as a flexible person, but in reality I think I’m super rigid because it creates predictability in my life.” So, very interesting.

Dr. Michael Norton:

Funny because you are doing something that objectively is great, and yet the disruption kind of lingered a little bit.

Ryan Goulart:

Right. Yeah, and so it does get to… Because something that you said, too, is just where people are going to be like, “Well, Mike, can you just tell me the top five rituals to do and I can just go do them?” But we also know that starting a new ritual or habit takes a long time to make it stick. And then the inverse of that is like, “Well, tell me the top five rituals that I shouldn’t be doing.” But we also know that rituals are hard to quit.

Dr. Michael Norton:

Yes. That’s right.

Ryan Goulart:

So like a final takeaway, I guess, of just what would be some, in your observations as it relates to both starting or stopping something that’s not materially a benefit to you, or benefit to you, what are some suggestions or recommendations that you would have from your point of view to be able to do some of this stuff more intentionally?

Dr. Michael Norton:

Yeah, I think two things. One is actually just look, observe yourself a little bit over the next day and see what you’re already up to. If you don’t see it in yourself, ask your spouse or partner or ask your coworkers, and they’ll be happy to tell you the rituals that you have.

Ryan Goulart:

That’s right. Exactly.

Dr. Michael Norton:

They’ve been seeing it. So one thing is just to kind of recognize and own the ones you have. And then the other is you can experiment a little bit. It might be that going to the bathroom and yelling at yourself isn’t motivating for you, but you can try out different sorts of rituals and see if they can have an emotional impact on you.

Ryan Goulart:

Love that. Yeah. Well, very good. Very exciting to talk with you, Mike. Thank you so much for the time.

Dr. Michael Norton:

Thanks so much, Ryan.

Ryan Goulart:

As we wrap this episode, we’re committed to helping you make the ideal real. If you found this program helpful, share it and help someone else make their ideal real, too. Until next time, for think2perform, I’m Ryan Goulart. Take care.

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