Taking Stock: Routine vs. Ritual

Shala Burroughs
Mar 3, 2014 · 4 min read

The past two years have been a whirlwind for me and for my husband. In 2012 we decided it would be a good idea to leave our jobs, sell our cars and most of our things, get married, move to New York City, and get a dog. I would not recommend this road to everyone, though it has brought me joy and has exposed me to possibilities beyond my wildest dreams. In the words of my husband (formerly in the Navy), we “left port for the broad ocean, subjecting ourselves to the laws of the sea.” My retort? “So now that we’re on board, did we bring an anchor?”

Since we put that veritable waterfall of decisions into motion I have complained to my husband ad nauseam about the lack of routine in our lives. I wish we had a routine to anchor on—you know something that could be the same every day—wake up, coffee, work, rinse, repeat. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago, however, that I realized that referring to this inner yearning as a “routine” was a misnomer. What I had really longed for all along was a ritual.

I’ll never forget this art history lecture from college where my professor painstakingly outlined the correlation between the architecture of a cathedral as it pertained to the rituals that would be practiced within. She outlined the reasons for rituals being a necessity as opposed to a nice-to-have. Rituals were a vehicle that afforded every individual—from peasants to the aristocracy—a shelter from the chaos of their difficult lives. It allowed them to find peace and beauty in a world that was anything but. While I found the thought moving, I could never relate to it—as a 10-year-old I remember spending weeks arguing with my mom, searching for every way possible to weasel out of church, and as a college student I found the rituals boring and mundane. Were these people seriously expecting me to sit down, stand up, and kneel in the same progression every week? But now that I am older, and an entrepreneur, I have begun to realize the true importance that ritual plays in our lives—and in my life in particular. And I don’t think I could do what I do without it.

Now please don’t go off the rails when I start talking about ritual. I am not saying you have to be a part of a certain religion, nor am I saying that you have to be religious at all, though the structure does help. Rather, what I have come to understand, much like what my former art history professor pointed out, is that ritual fills a need in the trials of life. There is something so human, and so grounding in having a ritual. And it is so very different than “having a routine”: the same progression of events day-in and day-out. A ritual, however, is quite a different beast. It is a procedure that is the same, week after week, that provides a place of peace and familiarity in the face of complete chaos. For me, that is church, for my friend Rachel (also an entrepreneur), it is running around the reservoir in Central Park. It could be, and probably is, something entirely different for you.

In January of this year I decided to start a company with a friend and colleague of mine. It has been fun, and exciting, and decidedly without routine. Moreover, what I realize now is that, if we play our cards right, and really build this business according to our vision, there will never be a routine. Evolution and routine cannot exist in the same room. And so if that is the landscape, the battlefield, how does one find their place of peace to float atop the swirling sea of startup life? Ritual.

The problem with routine is that it stagnates you and doesn’t account for the adjustment necessary to flex in an entrepreneurial environment. It is overly-clunky, in a world where a simple, straight-forward anchor will do. And so I have abandoned my perceived need of routine…to hope for that was a losing battle from the start. I am thankful now to have a ritual to anchor on, however antiquated it may seem. It provides me with sanctuary when the road ahead curves, rises, and falls unexpectedly. And I am now thankful for all those weeks I was dragged into church to learn their rituals—to repeat them now is a comfort in an otherwise rapidly changing and chaotic world.

    Shala Burroughs

    Written by

    Entrepreneur || Ops || Blockchain enthusiast

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