The Power of Daily Rituals: How Coffee Changed My Life

Do you want to do something great? Maybe you’re not out to change the world, but you would really like to make a difference, change a habit or start something new. Chances are high that you already have what it takes to make it happen. What if you could leverage the power of a daily ritual to start creating productive habits that will sustain you through the humdrum grind of life and chisel away at your big goals one day at a time?

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I’ve been making coffee almost every single day for the last four years. There are very few areas in my life that see such consistency, but the deep dark aroma of coffee beckons me each morning and again in the evening I find myself going back for more. The slow monotonous brewing process that I repeat day after day grinds away at my impatience, but I drink it anyway.

I am not a Folgers guy (no offense to those of you who are). I don’t own an automatic drip coffee maker. My brew is Major Dickason’s (from Peet’s Coffee and Tea) steeped at 200 degrees in fresh filtered water for four minutes in a French press pot and then gently pressed to perfection. For my wife, the process ends there. She likes her coffee straight from the pot, but I prefer to enhance the nutty roasted goodness of Major D’s with a splash of cream and a dash of sugar. While the caramelized confection is still steaming in my cup, I pour it directly over ice to stop time and lock in the flavors that might otherwise escape. The entire process, from heating the water to the final splash-dash-n-pour, takes approximately ten to fifteen minutes.

My diligent pursuit of caffeine nirvana, regardless of circumstance, is a personal achievement yet unmatched in almost every other area of my life. I cannot count the times I’ve been late getting my girls to school because I had to finish my morning coffee ritual or the times I, fighting back sleep, propped open my eyelids at 10 PM to clean my press pot and conjure up one last icy cup before bed (Warning: This is not a health conscious post, and I do not advocate the use of caffeinated products after dinner. I am an addict. I probably need an intervention.) Most times I despise repetitive tasks and I abhor waiting, but coffee trumps it all. My savory sweet reward is well worth my time. It occurred to me last week, as I was impatiently drumming my fingers on the kitchen countertop and pacing about waiting on the eternal four minutes to elapse, that perhaps there was a lesson to be learned here.

Four years ago, when I started making coffee in a French press, there was no ritual. I was driven purely by my curiosity about the brewing method and a desire to make something delicious. Once I perfected my personal formula, I was driven to repeat it. To me, none of this looked like discipline at the time. Routines are not my forte, and I was not looking to start one.

I started one anyway.

Without my knowledge or consent, I created a habit. Now I find myself making time to brew even if I have to put everything else on hold. When I wake up in the morning, I know I will make a choice, not between coffee or no coffee, but between being late for work or skipping the morning shave. It is a daily ritual now. I wake up thinking about it, and once the first rays of light bounce off my red-veined retinas I am already devising a plan to ensure I get my morning fix.

Let’s put this all into perspective. You may hate coffee, but we all have some big goals we’d really like to accomplish. Dream for just a minute. Wouldn’t you like to….

Pay off all your debts. Start your own business. Set aside money for retirement. Leave a legacy for your children. Volunteer at your church or charity of choice. Read daily. Pray daily. Invest in something bigger than yourself.

What do you dream about? What do you envy about other people? When you put your head on your pillow at night, what keeps your eyes open and your thoughts swirling? Imagine if you could harness the power of a daily ritual to accomplish your dream.

Chris Hogan, host of EntreLeadership podcast for Dave Ramsey, says:

“Someday is not a day of the week or month of the year,
it’s the day that the journey begins.”

Here’s a simple plan that I adapted from my morning coffee ritual to help you accomplish what’s on your heart starting today.

1. Write down the big thing that ignites your passion.

Spell it out in detail. Look out into the unknown future and imagine yourself doing this thing or accomplishing this goal. What would it look like?

2. Write down some milestones along the way to accomplishing your goal.

It helps to think of your life as if you were writing your own memoir. What would each chapter be about that led up to the point where you reached your goal. These milestones are the big chunks of progress along your path to success.

3. Do the little things everyday.

This is where you must learn to harness the power of the ritual. Think about the little things you could do each day to get one tiny step closer to your goal. Do you need to read one chapter of a book? Do you need to write one paragraph of your manifesto? Do you need to invest time in someone else? This is your moment. You are the author. What small thing can you do today to secure your future success?

4. Don’t stop.

My coffee ritual is like a perpetual motion machine now. I think about coffee any time I get near the kitchen. The aroma of a freshly roasted batch of coffee puts me into ritual mode. I didn’t get this way overnight. One morning after another strung together slowly over time to form my habit.

5. Savor your progress.

Early on, when I didn’t know I was building a ritual, I kept brewing every day because I knew I could enjoy my handiwork. One cup of coffee might last an hour, but it gave me joy knowing that I had handcrafted a drink I loved. Each night, instead of tossing and turning thinking about what might be, rest peacefully taking pride in the progress that you made that day.

6. Share the journey with others.

I have become somewhat of a coffee evangelist. I love making someone their first cup of French press coffee. Every time I open a new bag of freshly roasted beans, I call one of my daughters into the kitchen so we can enjoy the aroma together. Even more important than coffee, you need to share your passion with others. It encourage you, sharpens your focus, and brings others along for the ride. On the days I don’t feel like making coffee, my wife is there to motivate me. She’s personally invested now. She won’t let me fail.

If you want to succeed at the big things in life, you had better learn to be faithful in the little things everyday. As a kid, I remember my dad getting up at 3:00 AM six days a week just so he could get to work early and be ready to hit the ground running by starting time. I can’t even imagine the amount of discipline it took to get that ritual started, but he never wavered. It didn’t make him wealthy, but I have a rich legacy to fall back to on the days when I can’t seem to muster up a decent work ethic. That’s invaluable to me, and I am passing that same heritage to my own kids. That’s the power of a ritual.

Start today. Start small.
Just start and don’t stop.

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