5 Rituals to Jumpstart Your Activities

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Growing up in North Carolina in the era of Michael Jordan, I was enamored with abilities and consumed as much information about him as I could.

This era pre-dated the internet. ESPN, magazine articles and VHS tape shows about Jordan were main ways of learning more about as an athlete.

In a Jordan highlight & quasi-documentary video called “Michael Jordan’s Playground” he chronicled some of his pregame rituals he practiced before each game. He arrived at the area in a full suit because he was “going to work.” He’d head out to the court for a shoot-around where he wore the same shorts (UNC basketball shorts from his college) and used that time to clear his mind and visualize how he would play against his opens that night. He received pregame treatments like taping ankles, then he put on his uniform and huddled with his teammates. That progression got him to a place where he knew he was ready to complete that game.

Jordan’s ritual happened before every game.

We read the accounts of Jordan or swimmer Michael Phelps, Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods. The best athletes’ rituals make sense because they have to get in the zone to compete.

And yet, so many of us don’t have intentional rituals that get us ready for our daily “game time.”

We show up in haphazard ways that do not necessarily get us ready to perform. Us performing our main job duties and Jordan performing his are only different in the activity we’re doing. He earned his living by playing basketball games in front of thousands. You earn your living by making connections & influencing people.

If you don’t have your pre game rituals, now is the time for you to “be like Mike” and create some. Here are 5 rituals that you can use to develop your pre game rituals.

#1: Mental Imagery

Jordan did this. So did Phelps. So can you. Create a “video tape” in your mind about how you want your activities to go. Play it a handful of times in an immersive way. Watch that video tape as if you were in the video, looking at the scene through your own eyes. The more in depth you can make this  – i.e. the more senses you can employ, the actual people you’ll interact with, etc. – the more beneficial it will be.

Your mind will rally around you and make it so that the actual event feels like something that you’ve done before, taking the novelty out and making you more comfortable & confident.

#2: Grounding

When you’re in an important activity, you want to be in that moment. A fragmented mind leads to lackluster results.

To drop into the moment, a great way is to ground yourself. It’s a physical and energetic feeling of strength and stability where you are focused and mentally ready.

A simple grounding technique is to put your feet flat on the ground and shift your awareness and attention to the connection between your feet and the ground. Simply directing attention intentionally to that connection will cause your feet to naturally press a little more firm into the ground. You will feel the stability in your feet and connection that will give you the focus to take on your important task.

#3: Skill Warm-Ups

Could you imagine a baseball player showing up 15 minutes before first pitch, throwing on a uniform and going out ready to hit a live ball? Or a golfer just showing up to the first tee and taking the first swing of the day in the tournament? Of course not.

What are the skills required for your activity? If you’re in sales or conducting a presentation, that’s easy. You have your scripts and presentation to review. Here’s something I do before coaching:  I’ll review notes and the point of potential emphasis of the call. I’ll review the potential questions, techniques, etc. so that I’m sufficiently warm by call time. Think about the skills you’ll use to do your activity and warm those up ahead of time.

#4: Intentional Breathing

Hundreds of methods exist in breath work that can move you into preferred mental states. Consider the state that you want to cultivate for your activity.

For most of us, we want to calm our nervous system. Your key activities are likely higher stakes activities, as such, we experience some level of nerves. Those nerves are actually okay to experience. We simply need methods to dial up our cognitive executive functions as well as our ability to intuit and think quickly on our feet.

A few breathing techniques I teach include:

  • Box breathing: breathing in 4 second intervals. Breath in for 4 seconds, holding that for 4 seconds, breathing out for 4 seconds and holding the out breath for 4 seconds… and continuing that cycle. Great for achieving attention & focus because you have to literally count.
  • “Physio” breath: deep inhale through your nose, before you hit the top, take a quick, sharp inhale through the nose; breathe out slowly through your mouth. You’ll feel your body relax in just a few rounds of this breath.
  • Extended exhale: breathe in for 5 or more seconds. Breathe out for longer – 7 or more seconds. A relaxing technique. The longer the outbreath, the more it relaxes you.
  • “Ha” breathing: deep inhale through your nose and audible out breath through your mouth, making a sound like “ha.” Doing this for a couple minutes clears unwanted energy and builds an energetic fire


#5: Wash Hands

This is a great mental device prior to jumping into an activity. It’s a symbolic ritual as if you are washing away whatever you came into the building with so that you are left with a clear mind and conscious to focus on the activity at hand.

You can link this physical activity up with visualization to get into the zone you want to be in.

Bonus: this is also a good ritual coming out of your activity or even your work day. Again, symbolizing the washing away of whatever you’ve been doing so that you can be clean and fresh for your next priority.

Use these 5 or any other rituals that help you get into the mental & physical readiness that you need to tackle your most important activities. What helps to make the great ones great, we can use to help us tap into the greatness in ourselves.