Leadership lessons from Confucius: adhering to ritual

adhering to the rites

It’s good to be back in the peace and quiet of the Lincolnshire Fens. I’m hoping that the fog that has gathered in my head will lift so that I can forge ahead with my Leadership Lessons from Confucius project. This has stalled over the last few weeks thanks – I like to tell myself at least – a heavy working schedule.

One of the central concepts that Confucius promoted in his teachings is the importance of adhering to ritual (禮/lǐ) in building up your character. By repeatedly carrying out even the most mundane of actions such as eating or greeting another person in the proper manner, you build up a strong internal muscle memory that enables you to behave in the most appropriate way without even having to think about what you are doing.

Having trained all these behaviors in your body and mind through constant repetition and practice, you are thus able to act effortlessly even during the most stressful of times.

The rites apply to the process of writing every bit as much as they do to other facets of daily life. By, for example, scribbling out three pages of whatever happens to be in your mind as you wake up every morning, you can build up a regular habit that enables you to train your mind to get over the initial hurdle of putting your thoughts down on paper and to improve the quality of your output over time.

As I have learned from my own experience, building up such a habit can be very challenging – particularly when the urge to check your email or social media to see what you’ve missed can be so overwhelming. But once you reach the stage where writing becomes your default mode when you get out of bed in the morning, you will achieve great results.

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