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  • Sheri Buergey

January thought-starter: What makes a ritual?

Our monthly thought-starters come to you from our team of Guides, who are trained to help you make the most of your MeaningSphere experience. They’re on hand to help members of our community explore the big question: “What is the meaning of my work to me?” Find out more about our Guide services here. In this thought-starter Guide Sheri Buergey explores the role that ritual can play in finding meaning at work.

Coffee cup on green mat with black notebook on a wooden table

I once read that a ritual is “any activity that has the power to create a meaningful moment.” Unlike a habit we repeat daily without thought (such as showering, or brushing our teeth), a ritual is something we do with intention and attach our own meaning to. It doesn’t have to be based in superstition, religion, or culture. Making coffee is a habit, but taking a hot mug of it out into the garden and watching the sun rise is a ritual. A ritual helps the practitioner feel mentally prepared for what’s ahead.

I really appreciated this perspective on rituals. It came to me at a critical time in my career when I was stressed at work and that stress carried over into my personal life. At the time, I didn’t meditate or journal as I do now. I wasn’t doing much for my well-being (and sanity) besides daily exercise. The thought of building a new discipline felt heavy and was just one more thing to add to my plate. But a ritual can actually be quite simple. Without sharing the long, boring journey, I’d like to share three rituals that I now proudly practice that help me be my best self at work.

A person rolling out a yoga mat.

My morning ritual is to spend my first 10 minutes awake on my couch in my favorite room with my dog on my lap. I’ve attached meaning to this “ordinary” activity — it brings me peace and comfort before I start my day and I have more productive and creative days when I practice it.

The second is something I do for myself that helps me mark an end to my workday: I take a bath with Epson salts, music, and candles. If my intention was to get clean, this wouldn’t be a ritual. But because my intention is to mark the end of my workday and to remind myself that I am now on my own time, it’s a ritual.

The last ritual I’ll share is one that I practice daily (sometimes up to four times per day) with other colleagues at MeaningSphere. At the beginning of every virtual meeting (we are fully remote and located in multiple countries) we each respond to a question prompt that is not related to work. We call this our “check in question” and we “ritually” do it at every meeting. This intentional group activity honors us each as individuals while nurturing our culture. By dedicating time to demonstrate care and curiosity for others, we communicate that meaningful work isn’t just about doing the work.

As we enter a new year and another season of “resolutions,” let’s consider the value of rituals instead. Could rituals, with their gentle, cyclical nature, represent a more valuable, realistic, and enjoyable practice than the goal-oriented “resolutions” that so often end in disappointment in mid-January?

A man looking at a notebook, with a pen in his hand, thinking.

Without realizing it, you may have already elevated several activities in your workday to the status of “ritual.” What daily rituals do you already practice? What rituals would you like to introduce to your workday in 2023? If you are part of a team, notice what rituals are already in place and what value they bring. If you manage others, consider what rituals you might introduce to induct newcomers, recognize achievement, or transition your team in and out of work mode.

This month, we’re exploring rituals and their impact on meaningful work. For more, download our ritual-themed January calendar, sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on social. Let’s make more meaningful moments in 2023!

Sheri Buergey is a MeaningSphere Guide.


Image credit: Shutterstock


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