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Rituals – An Unstoppable Force

By Al Curnow, Vice President

ritual [rit-u-al] :an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set precise manner.


Storms Are Still Brewing

We’re in the center of a number of storms. We’re approaching the ninth month of the pandemic. Social unrest continues to bubble across the country and we\’re now facing the impact of some form of Presidential transition (when/if that may be).  As Robert Zimmerman (better known as Bob Dylan) would say, “the times they are a-changing.”  Mental health issues are on the rise.  Anxiety levels are up across all segments of our population.  Regardless of our views on these converging storms, one thing is for sure- they’re impacting our people and our organizations. 

So, What Can We Do?

This, of course, begs the question, “what can we do about it?” The forces at hand are beyond our individual control.  Sure, we can continue to hope for a quick deployment of a safe and effective vaccine and improved therapeutics to begin to curb the damage of the virus.  We can look to begin to address potential social issues within our organizations.  Yet, what can we do today?  What can we do right now?

Lean Into Rituals

Rituals have been around for thousands of years (look at the various religious traditions). They’ve played an important role in the lives of millions and millions of people since the beginning of time. They’ve provided an anchor in countless storms and they’ve provided a foundation to support mindfulness and peace of mind.  They’ve provided elite military teams with the ability to act with precision and cohesion.  They’ve provided the most successful athletic teams with the ability to attain sustained excellence.     

 When Rituals Become Unstoppable

In November of 2014, the Toronto Maple Leafs were hosting the Nashville Predators. As with every NHL contest, there is a pre-game ritual of the playing of the national anthem. In this case, both the Canadian and the American anthems were to be played. Yet, when the vocalist singing the anthem encountered technical difficulties, an interesting thing occurred.  The mostly Canadian crowd took over the singing of the American national anthem! The crowd simply wouldn’t let the ritual go uncompleted. (see video here)

In another case there was a softball game being played in California.   Before the game began, the announcer exclaimed that there’d be no national anthem due to problems with the sound system. The response from the crowd was amazing.  The crowd banded together to sing an a cappella version of the anthem! (see video here). They would not let the ritual go unfulfilled.

I’ve had my own personal experience with this phenomena while coaching my daughter’s youth basketball team. My team simply would not allow me to start our practices without first discussing our Fundamental of the Week, every single practice.

These cases exemplify the sheer power of ritual. When a ritual is established (and regularly practiced) it creates a certain force- a momentum that can be hard to stop. Rituals also create a sense of comfort and familiarity, essential in times of change and uncertainty.

They Can Do The Same For You

If we want to bring stability to our organizations, if we want to foster bonding and alignment of our team members, rituals are absolutely essential.  While rituals will help us get through times of uncertainty, they’ll also provide benefits to our organizations that last for years and years.

If you’d like to learn more about creating lasting rituals for your organization, send us an email or click the button below.

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