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According to plan

My friend, Anupam, wrote about harnessing rituals beyond religion by giving examples of Steven Pressfield and Micheal Phelps. From his article:

"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."
I completely agree with what he postulates and want to expand on why rituals tend to inspire a high degree of performance in us.

One of my all-time favourite movies is The Dark Knight, which has so much to teach us about human psychology and has inspired me in so many ways. In that, there is a scene where the Joker says, "I just did what I do best. I took your little plan and I turned it on itself. Look what I did to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets. Hmmm? You know... You know what I've noticed? Nobody panics when things go "according to plan." Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it's all "part of the plan". But when I say that one little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds. Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I'm an agent of chaos. Oh, and you know the thing about chaos? It's fair!”

What rituals do to our minds is similar to what the Joker says about how people react to things going "according to plan". Even of the plan is horrifying, they don't panic. On the flip side, even if the plan is exhilarating, like someone getting a big payout when they vest their stocks or get their annual bonus, they aren't particularly happy. However, they are overjoyed when they earn a similar amount in a lottery. Because winning the lottery is not part of the plan.

What rituals do is trick our minds into thinking that what comes ahead is "according to plan". When Micheal Phelps has practiced a thousand times by following his pre-performance ritual or when Steven Pressfield has written on a thousand days following his pre-writing ritual, then following the ritual on a high stakes day lets them trick their minds into thinking that what's ahead of them is just another like those thousand times. This removes all uncertainty, removes all anxiety and doubt, and puts them in the peak state that they have previously trained their minds to be in.

Which is why, if I follow Steven Pressfield's ritual before writing, it does nothing to my writing. If anything, it might make me feel a little foolish about myself for going through with it. But for him, it is about things going "according to plan".

What are your rituals?

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