Every morning, the writer Steven Pressfield puts on his lucky boots (with its lucky laces). He then wears his lucky hooded sweatshirt with its lucky charms. He points his small lucky cannon on his desk towards himself so that it can fire inspiration towards him. He then says his prayer – the invocation of the Muse from Homer’s Odyssey, which sits beside his lucky acorn from the battlefield of Thermopylae. And then, he writes for about four hours.
On competition days, the legendary swimmer Michael Phelps starts off with eating the same breakfast of eggs, oatmeal and four energy shakes. He performs the same stretching routine and swim 800m, 600m, 400m, 200m, and a series of 25m drills. After that, he listens to his favourite music on headphones. He then walks to the blocks, stretches his legs on them, left leg first. He takes the right headphone out. When they call his name, the left headphone follows. He stands on the left side of the block and gets on to it from that side. Finally, the does his iconic double flap and he’s now raring to go.
Rituals are not confined to religion, although the word carries a strong religious connotation. A ritual is any habit that is costly – every ritual has a certain degree of inconvenience associated with it. In return, these habits trigger can inspire a high degree of performance.
Not all rituals are useful – the mindless repetition of arcane prayers does not serve anyone. But a meaningful ritual is a habit that gives you more than what you put into it.