Getting to Yes, And

The Ritual Effect


Michael Norton

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Kelly sits down at The Second City with Harvard business professor Michael Norton to discuss his new book "The Ritual Effect: From Habit to Ritual, Harness the Surprising Power of Everyday Actions."

We should probably start by defining the difference between a ritual and a habit.

“There is no distinct set of behaviors that belons solely to rituals and another distinct set that belongs to habits. Instead, it’s the emotion and meaning we bring to the behaviors. Two people could be doing the exact same thing, something as ordinary as making coffee. For one person, it’s about the end goal – getting caffeinated by the quickest means available. The what. For the other, it’s about the how. Coarse grind, never medium or fine. Or French press, always and only. Fo one, it’s an automated habit. For the other, it’s a meaningful ritual.”

I thought your research on the diversity of our emotions was fascinating.

"Our results show that the diversity of our different shades of emotions – contentment, amusement, elation, awe, and gratitude, but also sadness, fear, and anxiety – add up to richer emotional lives and links to our overall well-being.”

You cite research that was done with river rafters and group bonding.

“For one, synchrony, simply conducting the same actions along with a group of people, and shared attention, witnessing everyone do so in unison, builds trust. Second, many of the team-building rituals we’ve seen incorporate contact and physical movement. Similar to what we found with performance rituals, movement in group rituals helps us get out of our heads. Third, and perhaps most important, the camaraderie is built around the new identity work of the river rafters. They have all left their familiar contexts – comfortable affiliations and roles – for a situation fraught with risk where survival requires cohesion with the group.”

Photo Credit: Steph Stevens


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