Fall down and get up {6/6)

This article is the last in a series (now an ebook called the Magical Effects of Morning and Evening Rituals [MEMER]). If you haven't already, check out:

Prefer audio? These are all available on the Heroine podcast too. If you don't have iTunes, you can stream episodes here.

Happy New Year!

I want to talk about three things that have helped me develop a “reset” mindset when my rituals fall to the wayside.

First off: you’re human. You make mistakes. You aren’t perfect. And you’re certainly not a machine. I keep reiterating this point throughout the ritual series because I think it’s important. Far too many of us hold ourselves up to idealized standards of very disciplined people with high willpower. In a perfect world, maybe we would be like that.

But the truth is that even if you have designed your ritual (or set your new year resolution), by now it has probably morphed or lessened to some degree, or decayed altogether. That’s natural. Rituals take quite a bit of energy, intention, and smart environmental design to maintain. We have to design for the maintenance of rituals as much as the creation of them. So don’t be too hard on yourself. 

So, what is a reset mindset?

If you imagine a baby who is learning to walk. He or she falls numerous times, and the probability of success does not depend on the baby’s ability to keep walking, but on the baby’s ability to pick its little booty up again after he or she has fallen. Yah? That is more predictive of the baby’s success than anything else.

Elizabeth Gilbert talks about this in her book Big Magic in relationship to her writing practice. She says that what matters is whether you show up again to the page the next day, after you have failed, or it was a struggle, or you forgot to do it all together. Do you come back? Do you get back on the path when you fall off? Or do you abandon, forget, and quit? The key is to get back on the path and the ability to do that will make a big difference in your life.

Our ability to get back on the path towards the commitment to ourselves is what I’m calling a “reset mindset.” It’s the ability to look at where we are again, dust ourselves off, and put ourselves back on the track after we waver.

Ok, but realistically. What helps us develop this reset mindset? Keep in mind that this is a skill we have to hone and practice. To forget or abandon is the easy default.

Now for those three things that have worked for me that will help you, too.

The Immersive Experience

The first is what I call the occasional immersive experience. Most people complain and say things like, "Well I don’t want to pay for a retreat or immersive experience to help me keep going." But I see these as maintenance activities. Because the rituals we’re talking about involve creativity and/or rest, I say sign up for at least two immersive experiences per year – they could be programs or retreats – that help you deepen your relationship to the rituals in your daily life. Those things make a difference, and help build towards a muscle. Yes, you’ll get a boost in motivation after these experiences and then your rituals will naturally decay, but that’s natural. You can take another immersive experience. The metaphor might be like filling up your gas tank (gas being inspiration, energy, or motivation). You fill up for motivation and ride that out, and eventually you’ve got to fill up again. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Some people might argue that you grow dependent on these immersive experiences and never truly learn. But I would argue that there is a gradual learning that takes place after each immersive experience. As that knowledge grows your ritual decay times should become longer, but there are many factors that contribute to this so it's worth observing in your own life.


The second is community. Do you have other people in your life who have morning and evening rituals who you can talk to about them? I have soul sisters who live close by and we gather once a month to chat about things going on in our lives. These like-minded friends often reflect back to me positive lifestyle practices that I want to maintain (yoga, meditation, etc.) and we inspire and support each other. Community is a source of motivation, and finding a group of women or people that can “fill up your motivation tank” is essential. If you’re curious about this, I host a monthly women's group in SF. You can learn more about it here


The third skill that has helped me develop a healthy reset mindset is self-compassion. The big fear with self-compassion is that you’re “letting yourself off the hook,” or using it as an excuse to let your rituals fall to the wayside. Dr. Kristin Neff, psychologist at University of Texas, Austin and expert in self-compassion, debunks this idea. She says:

Remember that being compassionate to oneself means that you want to be happy and healthy in the long term. In many cases, just giving oneself pleasure may harm well-being (such as taking drugs, over-eating, being a couch potato), while giving yourself health and lasting happiness often involves a certain amount of displeasure (such as quitting smoking, dieting, exercising).  People are often very hard on themselves when they notice something they want to change because they think they can shame themselves into action – the self-flagellation approach. 

Most of us are so used to shaming ourselves into action in the short-term, maintaining a steady current of chronic stress that wears and tears on our nervous system over time. Self-compassion means accepting where we are in the present moment so that we can get back onto the path in a centered way. It’s ultimately the more sustainable tone and approach we can take in recommitting to our rituals.

A large part of self-compassion is seeing the common humanity in what’s happening. Saying things like, “Hey, rituals are hard. This isn’t easy. A lot of people struggle with sustaining rituals,” helps remind me that I’m not alone in this learning process and that there’s nothing actually wrong with me.

Another sub-component of self-compassion is mindfulness, which involves inviting yourself to recognize, allow, and investigate the decay with kindness. For example:

  1. Recognize: “Oh, I haven’t done my ritual for 3 days.” Notice what’s happening without judgment. Awareness is the first step.

  2. Allow: “What does it feel like when I don’t do my ritual? What did it feel like just now to realize I haven’t done it for 3 days?” Allow for any emotions to arise and be there.

  3. Investigate with kindness: “These things happen. I wonder what happened...or what I need to do to get back on track…”

*Note: these steps are borrowed from Tara Brach’s RAIN process.

Once you’ve become mindful about what’s happening, you’ve put yourself in a way better head and heart space to take appropriate actions and next steps.

Finally, let’s remember that self-compassion can have its dose of fierceness and “tough love” when needed. You can remind yourself of why you’re doing rituals in the first place in a way that is honest and sobering, yet without the self-flagellating thoughts of “you always…” or “why can’t you ever…” etc.

There you have it – the three ways to develop a reset mindset and get back on the path: periodic immersion experiences, community, and self-compassion.  

This wraps up my series on designing rituals, but it doesn't really end here. As we know by now, rituals take care to maintain. I hope you'll revisit the information in this series often for your continued support and guidance. I've lovingly put together this series into a complete ebook, with a unique introduction about my own background with rituals and why I decided to write about them. It's available now and you can order it here