We’re already halfway through 2020 and in the beloved F.R.I.E.N.D.S character, Chandler’s, signature style, “Could the world be any more different?!”

Well, despite that, some things will remain the same and even evolve for the better. Like our habits and rituals. Be it daily, weekly, monthly or yearly rituals. They can stand the test of time, as well as the test of pandemics.

In The Power of Habit, one of the most impactful books I’ve ever read, author Charles Duhigg says that life is just an accumulation of habits. And once you dissect a habit into the cue, the routine, and the reward, you’re much more aware of how to make or break habits.

Over time, these habits take on a greater meaning, becoming sacred rituals that you just cannot imagine life without. 

Today I want to share three such unrelated rituals with you that have transformed my life in subtle and invaluable ways. They certainly have the power to transform your life too.

A ritual that reinforces mindfulness

Every morning, between 7:15 and 7:20 am, I wake my neighbours up with a few low clunks and thuds. What follows these sounds is a heavenly aroma that fills up my senses like no other. Cardamom pods, ground in my precious little mortar and pestle, gently dropped into a pot of bubbling, golden-brown ginger water.

A quarter of an hour and some tea leaves, milk and jaggery later, just as the neighbours are going back to bed, a cup of flavourful masala chai is ready to play the role of my faithful morning companion.

This tiny ritual, that takes all of fifteen minutes, didn’t start out as a ritual I cherish. At first it was just a task. Making something hot to sip on as I read the daily newspaper. But as days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, my daily habit of making tea slowly became a treasured ritual to look forward to, a ritual that centered me every morning. Something that added a special flavour to the day, with an after-taste that lingered right until I went to bed at night. A reminder of the beauty of mindfulness. Being totally present in the moment and in touch with yourself and your environment.

For you, this exercise in mindfulness could be going for a short run first thing every morning or playing your guitar after work every evening. No matter what the ritual is, cultivating mindfulness is a must-have tool for your overall well-being. And your financial well-being forms an integral part of that.

Mindfulness is instrumental in creating a more responsible approach towards money management and in eliminating financial stress. Careless spending habits and worrisome thoughts about your money start to disappear when you’re focused on the present moment. Mindfulness instills clarity and makes you proactive rather than reactive. Your awareness that a problem might exist is heightened and your focus shifts from dwelling on the problem to coming up with a solution for it.

So do you want to continue sleeping, or would you rather be proactive and do something to better your financial health?

Take this quick test to see how you fare on the “Mindful Attention Awareness Scale”.

A ritual that helps automate the decision making process

Friday night dinners run a tad longer than the other six dinners. This is because my family and I spend fifteen minutes planning the menu for the upcoming week. Breakfast, lunch, evening snacks and dinner. You name the day and the meal and we’ll tell you exactly what we’re going to cook. We’ve been practicing this little ritual every week for over a decade now, and it has proven beneficial beyond words.

Taking care of our nutritional needs is the number one priority, so we make sure that all our meals are balanced. And the question, “What shall I cook today?” doesn’t pop in our heads everyday. Of course, there are times every now and then, when we might not get the ingredients we need for a particular dish, but we’re quick to come up with a substitute. Our weekly menu has automated our decision making process, leaving us with hidden time that would’ve been lost in coming up with a cooking plan for the day, every single day. More importantly, it has helped us overcome making bad decisions, like binging on junk food.

With your personal finances, automating things like your monthly investments does away with all the time and energy spent wondering where, when and how much you should invest. It disciplines you into doing what’s important. Starting an SIP in a mutual fund takes barely fifteen minutes, but one small decision like this enables your money to work for you, while you simply focus on the work you do.

“Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned,” writes Charles Duhigg.

Decision fatigue is real and it will drain you, unless you take that baby step to eliminate it.

A ritual that creates unparalleled stability 

Growing up, on the first of every month, I’d watch my dad sit with a neat notebook that he’d designated for the family budget. My mum would join him and together they’d go over the last thirty days’ incomes and expenses as well as plan the month ahead. They still do this together without missing a single month! The only difference is that the book has now been replaced by an Excel sheet.

When I started working I tried incorporating this habit into my monthly routine. But I’d often skip a month or two in between. I was far from being regular with it. I’d have a rough idea of what my budget might look like, so I didn’t think it was necessary to do this mundane task every thirty days. Had I fully grasped the astounding ripple effect of those fifteen minutes, I’d have started doing this much more enthusiastically from the very beginning.

Nevertheless, I’m glad I started when I did. Because today, armed with this monthly budget ritual, I know that I can tide over absolutely any kind of economic turmoil.

As Duhigg says, “Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.”

So this weekend, decide to do something to better your financial health. And spend fifteen minutes on it. A ritual will hardly ever be perfect when you just start out, but the important thing is to start.

Author Bio - Komal Shivdasani

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