segunda-feira, março 05, 2012

Chi Kung Ritual: "The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business" by Charles Duhigg

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(original review, 2012)


I was just thinking earlier this week about the 4 dimensions of rituals that Mervin Verbit, a sociologist, wrote about: content, frequency, intensity and centrality. And, although he was talking more about religious rituals, I think they apply to most other kinds of rituals in our lives too. And, I think that if our everyday rituals include these 4 dimensions in the right proportions, they can allow us pay more attention to what we’re doing and give us the space to be more creative. Note that I'm not suggesting that rituals, in themselves, can make anyone more creative - rather that they enable some of the right conditions for creativity.

I believe "centrality" refers to how central the overall practice is within one's life. If it is central enough and the other 3 dimensions are present, the practice constitutes as a ritual. Charles Duhigg, in The Power of Habit, called them "Keystone Habits". And, while he did not suggest ritualisation, I find that there is a strong connection between long-standing habits and rituals - particularly when all Verbit's 4 dimensions are present.

I like the idea of rituals, but how do you differentiate between ritual and good working practice? I sort of see good or optimal working practices as a subset of rituals, so I'm not sure you would differentiate between the two.

I'm wondering if we might possibly mean "How do you differentiate between rituals that are optimal/good working practices vs. those that are not optimal working practices?" And, that is certainly an interesting question. I suppose there would have to be a 5th dimension then - the impact or the end-result that is generated from the particular ritual or working practice. I haven't read any sociological theories on this yet, but, I'm sure they exist. I imagine, also, that we start getting into slippery territory here as the definition of "impact" and "end-result" will likely vary on multiple levels - e.g. with reference to the one practising the ritual, others who may be impacted by it, any actual by-products that result and who, in turn, they might impact...... Also, there is the difficulty of actually being able to measure or see the impact / end-result. I need to think on this some more, clearly. :) Books like these raise good questions and also give me something to chew on. Sorry I'm not being more helpful besides just thinking out loud like this. Maybe we need to investigate other ritual-related and habit-related theories out there.

Bottom-line: It's not the number of beans in your morning that's important (I don't drink coffee by the way), the important bit is that the beans are crushed with a cherry wood pestle in an Italian white marble mortar. Turning the pestle three turns clockwise to every counter turn. And, of course, there's the water which must be drawn at dawn from the well in a brass bucket then transferred to the stove in an enameled bowl. But all preparation may be ruined if served in the wrong cup. Because I don't drink coffee, my morning ritual is 20m of Chi Kung every single day. If I’ve got the time, I do some Zhan Zhung as well.

Worth mulling over more. [Note: I'm no sociologist, just an avid reader. But, this is one of my favourite topics, so I like to read/discuss. Doesn't make me an expert, I hasten to add.]