How Rituals and Habits Make Life Better | Michael Norton

Michael Norton

Have you ever wondered why we celebrate birthdays with cake and candles? Why couples develop special routines together? Or, why you eat, drink or do the same things, every day, but in a mindful way, and what science says that does for you?

My guest today, researcher and Professor Michael Norton, says these types of rituals do more than just mark occasions. They can transform our emotional experiences and connect us with others. In my experience, rituals provide comfort and meaning, especially during times of change. But how exactly do they work? And how can we harness rituals to effect incredible change our lives?

Michael is the Harold M. Brierley Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. He provides fascinating insights in his new book, The Ritual Effect: From Habit to Ritual, Harness the Surprising Power of Everyday Actions. His research shows that rituals are more than just habits – they are meaningful, emotion-laden actions that serve important purposes in our lives.

In this episode, Michael and I explore the differences between habits and rituals. We discuss how rituals help us cope during grief and transition. And we consider how introducing new rituals can enhance our relationships, savoring, and personal growth.

Michael’s insights are equal parts scientific and practical. With humor and empathy, he reveals the hidden power of our everyday actions. Join us for a thought-provoking look at the ritual effect.

You can find Michael at: WebsiteLinkedIn | Episode Transcript

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photo credit: Steph Stevens


Episode Transcript:

Michael Norton: [00:00:00] The ritual is when you get to the how. So how you do them starts to matter. The way in which you do them your own personal way means more to you. And that’s like the very beginning to me of the difference between a habit and a ritual. Just the idea that the very same simple, boring actions can sometimes get imbued with more more emotion, more meaning, more something. To me, that’s when it moves from kind of the mindless habit to something a little bit richer.


Jonathan Fields: [00:00:30] Have you ever wondered what the difference is between habits and ritual? There may be wonder why do we do things like celebrate birthdays with cake and candles? Why do couples develop special routines together? Or why do you eat or drink or do the same things every day, but in a mindful way? And what is science say that this actually does for you? My guest today, researcher and Professor Michael Norton, says these types of rituals do more than just mark occasions. They can literally transform our emotional experiences and connect us with ourselves and others. And in my experience, rituals. They provide comfort and meaning, especially during times of change. But how actually do they work? And how can we harness rituals to effect incredible change in our lives? And what’s even the difference between a ritual and a habit? Because we’ve heard so much about habits. But what about these things called rituals and the power they hold? Michael is the Harold M Brierley Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, and he provides fascinating insights in his new book, The Ritual Effect From Habit to Ritual Harnessing the Surprising Power of Everyday Actions. His research shows that rituals are more than just habits. They’re meaningful, emotion-laden actions that serve important purposes in our lives. In this episode, Michael and I explore the differences between habits and rituals. We go into how rituals help us cope during grief and transition in so many other times in our lives, and we consider how introducing new rituals can enhance our relationships, savoring and personal growth. And his insights are equal parts scientific and also just really practical, with a lot of humor and empathy, he reveals the hidden power of our everyday actions. So excited to share this conversation with you.


Jonathan Fields: [00:02:13] And one last thing before we dive into today’s conversation, I want to share a fun new project that I have created for you. It’s a way to feel more alive and less alone. So after taking a years-long hiatus from public writing, I’m back and with a new weekly newsletter and community called Awake at the Wheel. So every Sunday morning in your inbox, you’ll get a new story and insight written by me, along with a journaling and conversation prompt designed to help you feel more alive and less alone. And hey, even if you’re not a journaler, it’ll give you something to think about so that you can step into your week in a more intentional way. And just on a personal level, I am just so excited to get back to writing in a more personal, vulnerable, long-form way. It would mean the world to me if you would support this new project. So go check out the latest stories and insights and see what this week’s writing and conversation prompt is. Now. I think you’ll really like it. I’ll see you over at awake at the wheel. Just click the link in the show notes. Now I’m Jonathan Fields and this is Good Life Project.


Jonathan Fields: [00:03:17] I love the topic of your recent work and your new book, The Ritual Effect. The notion of ritual has been something that’s so fascinating to me for so many years. It’s something that I’ve looked at in my own life. It’s something that I’ve sort of thought about. But the lens that you bring to it is is interesting and useful. You know, it really sort of like deconstructs this notion of what what it is, what it isn’t, how it weaves into our lives and then applies to very specific sort of like domains of life that I really want to dip into. But I think, you know, a good opening sort of question for us is when we’re talking about ritual, what are we actually talking about?


Michael Norton: [00:03:53] I think, uh, I want to preface anything I say by saying I’m not anti-habit. I think good habits are great. Some of my research is trying to help people, you know, if they want to exercise more, we try to help them and all this kind of stuff. But I do think that sometimes we overly focus on just having good habits, because I think if you think about a life of perfect habits, for example, you know, 40 years where every day is absolutely perfect, habits, exercise, eating right, everything. I think you look back and say it was a pretty dry, boring kind of life. You’d be super healthy, there’s no doubt. But would you say I had a rich life or an interesting life or a varied life? And I think sometimes that’s where rituals come in, actually, is that they help us get out of I mean, literally, we’re going through the motions in our everyday life. We have this phrase, I think rituals help us get a little bit more than that out of everyday life, a little more joy, a little more meaning, just a little more emotion than have it driven all the time.


Jonathan Fields: [00:04:51] So break down how you see rituals being different from habit, because for sure, habit has been, you know, it’s been at the center of the zeitgeist for a chunk of time now. And there’s a, you know, like a lot of conversation around it. Anytime you write something or record something that has the word habit in it, you’re like, ooh, like, that’s the thing that will make my life better. And you’re not saying, no, that’s not true, but tease out what is the distinction between ritual and habit.


Michael Norton: [00:05:15] Can I ask you a kind of silly question? Yeah. In the morning, do you brush your teeth first and then shower, or do you shower and then brush your teeth?


Jonathan Fields: [00:05:24] Well, that’s assuming that I do either.


Michael Norton: [00:05:26] But to the extent that you bathe.


Jonathan Fields: [00:05:28] Well, let’s assume that I do brush my teeth every morning. Whether I shower or not is completely different issue, but I do have a morning routine. How much of that is a ritual and how much of it is habit? You know, like, um, I guess that’d be, um, I don’t know, interesting to tease out. You know, I do. I wake up in the morning, I brush my teeth, I move from there, and I lie on a couch, and I do breathing exercises and meditate. Like, that is the way that every single day starts and it has for years.


Michael Norton: [00:05:57] And how would you feel if I said, mix it up tomorrow?


Jonathan Fields: [00:06:01] Um, antsy. Antsy?


Michael Norton: [00:06:03] And why? How come?


Jonathan Fields: [00:06:05] I think that I have come to look at that as sort of, um, just the way that I start my day, my brain is tuned to the fact that this is what happens when you open your eyes, you know, like, and I don’t think about it anymore. It’s become automatic, which I guess is one of the things that really drops it into the habit bucket to a certain extent.


Michael Norton: [00:06:23] Yeah. I think when we ask people about their morning routine or we can talk about routine versus ritual, but most people have something that they do in the specific order or something like that. But then if I say, as I asked you to switch it up, about half of people say, sure couldn’t care less, no problem. You know, if you brush your teeth and then shower or whatever. If I say flip the order, whatever they say, yeah, I don’t care. And for me, those are kind of like habits because you need to get them done. You know, you have a checklist of stuff you’re supposed to get done. You got to check them off. But the order in which you do them or how you do them just doesn’t really matter that much to you. But about half of people say, I don’t want to, you know, I’d rather not. And if I say why, they say, I’m not sure. You know, I don’t have a great reason why I want to do it the way I do it. But I feel good, I feel ready, I feel more alive when I do it this way in the morning.


Michael Norton: [00:07:16] And as you said, switching it up. They feel antsy. They say I’ll feel off all day. I’ll feel weird, all these sorts of words. And for me, that means that it’s gone from a very kind of dry habit where it really is just we think of it as the what I’m going to do these specific things, and the ritual is when you get to the how, so how you do them starts to matter the way in which you do them your own personal way. Oddly enough, of brushing your teeth means more to you. And that’s like the very beginning to me of the difference between a habit and a ritual, not a ritual. Like people in robes with candles chanting like that. That’s further away. But just the idea that the very same simple, boring actions can sometimes get imbued with more more emotion, more meaning, more something. To me, that’s when it moves from kind of the mindless habit that you were talking about to something a little bit richer.


Jonathan Fields: [00:08:11] Hmm. So maybe let’s stay on that morning routine as as a bucket to reference a little bit. It longer. And if we take that what I just described as mine. Like I wake up, I brushed my teeth, I breathe, and then I meditate. I don’t ever think about how I’m brushing my teeth, but I could pretty much guarantee it’s the exact same thing every single time. You know, like right, left, top, bottom up, that whatever it is like.


Michael Norton: [00:08:34] In fact, my dentist actually said, looking in my mouth, said, I know exactly the order that you do your teeth. And I said, how do you know? And he said, because when you start out, you’re really like getting into it. You’re brushing your teeth and by the end you’re just kind of like, well, whatever. So he said he can actually tell that the spots that are brushed well is usually where you start because you’re like, yes, doing it now and then by the end, you just don’t even care anymore. It’s like amazing, you know?


Jonathan Fields: [00:08:59] That’s too funny. Um, so when I finally get to the place where I do my breathing exercises and then I do my meditation, here’s what I’m curious. Because the container of doing those things and sort of like the step of, okay, now I’m going to do my, my breathing, my pranayama, and now I’m going to do my meditation. That happens like clockwork. I don’t think about that. Like, this is just the way that that my morning unfolds. You know, I could be traveling wherever it is as long as I have that, like, window set aside, it’s always going to happen. But within the container of the behavior, there are times where I make choices to do it differently. So one day I may do a different type of breathing exercise, or on a Sunday morning I might do a meadow or loving-kindness meditation or, you know, instead of my traditional breath-oriented meditation, I may look at, like the app that I use as a timer and say like, well, maybe I’m going to be guided by Tara Brock or someone else today and listen to something else. So am I. Overlaying ritual and habit there?


Michael Norton: [00:10:00] Are you using the different variations because you’re looking? What are you looking for when you do it differently, like the feeling or the outcome? What are you shooting for when you say, you know what, today I think I’m going to do this instead of that.


Jonathan Fields: [00:10:13] Yeah, it’s an interesting question, and my sense is that I’ll pause, I’ll take a beat. And, you know, without consciously using the words like, what do I need? This morning, I’ll effectively be asking myself that question, like, how am I? Did I sleep well? Did I not sleep well? Do I need a little bit more energizing? Do I need something that’s just totally chill? Am I spiraling or feeling really tired? In which case I might want a voice to guide me? Or do I feel like I can just drop into my breath? So I think it’s more like, you know, like in this moment, what do I need from this practice?


Michael Norton: [00:10:45] Yeah. And so it’s, you know, it’s interesting because you think about, in one way we want habits to become mindless, right? I mean, we want to just never think about it again. Just do the good thing forever. And that is good. I mean, the research shows that’s very helpful. But very often, even within habits that are quote-unquote mindless, meaning you do them every day, you’re still getting more out of them. You know, they aren’t just mindless. So for you, kind of they’re going through the motions in a sense, because you know, you’re going to do it every day, but you’re also embedding more meaning in it. How you are doing the meditation is important to you for who you are. You don’t just want to take a ready-made one and always do that. You want to express something about what you need or who you are within your meditation. And there again, it starts to have. It’s more than just I need to meditate today. Set the timer. Couldn’t care less what kind. You know, I just am supposed to do this and you say no, no, no. How I do it is going to be very, very important to me because I’m looking typically with rituals for an outcome after the fact. I’m doing this in order to feel this way later. Habits are often I’m doing this to get this done. Rituals are often I’m going to do this so that and when you get the so that as well, you start to get more into this emotion and meaning. And what are we looking for throughout our day.


Jonathan Fields: [00:12:06] That’s interesting. So can you effectively then have rituals embedded inside of habits? Because that sounds kind of like what we’re talking about here.


Michael Norton: [00:12:15] Absolutely. And I mean, one thing that’s as a nerd, I would say fascinating. As a researcher, I’d say frustrating is the very same behaviors for one person can be a boring habit, and for someone else, it can be like an incredibly meaningful ritual. So, I mean, even if you think about religious services, if I’m Irish Catholic, so if I watch a Catholic mass from on high, everyone’s doing the exact same thing. The whole, you know, they’re standing, they’re kneeling, they’re doing the appropriate thing. And in any religion, everybody’s doing the right thing. If I’m looking, everyone looks like they’re engaged in a meaningful ritual. However, when I ask people at the end, one person says, you know what? This this is the most important time of the week for me. It expresses my faith. It connects me to my family, to my relatives, to sometimes a thousand, 2000, 3000-year history. And other people say, yeah, I just went because my mom made me and I can’t tell looking which ones which we really actually have to. And same with meditation. Some people are doing it, you know, I know. Supposed to do this, and other people are doing it truly, deeply because it means something deeper to them. And it is frustrating because we can’t just say, aha, three claps and two stomps. That’s a ritual. We have to go to you and say, you know, what is how you’re doing this important to you? What’s the meaning you’re getting out of these actions?


Jonathan Fields: [00:13:34] Yeah, I mean, that makes a lot of sense. And even on any given day within the same person, I’m thinking about that morning practice for me, there are some days where I’m just like, you know, I’m hitting the button. And due to the time, it’s just like my default. And I’m just like, I can’t wait for like, that 25-minute triple chime to happen, right? And there are other days where I really I drop into it and I feel like there’s something like a little bit more juicy happening. And what’s interesting also, especially in the context of meditation, is like one of the instructions is always you don’t step into it with an expectation. It’s not about like what you want from the practice. It’s simply about doing the practice. And yet you’re human, you know? That’s exactly right. Really hard to let that go, right? When we think about the difference between ritual and habit, another curiosity of mine is the attention element of it. I always understood that habits are these things that we start doing in a very intentional and attentive way, like because we kind of have to to make it happen, and then through repetition over time, that the intentionality and the attentional part of it, it kind of falls away. And this just becomes an automatic thing where we’re not really focused on it anymore. And I’ve heard all sorts of justifications for it, you know, like, or it conserves energy in our brain. We have to do this with so many of the behaviors that we do every day. It seems like there’s also a different intentional and attentional quality to ritual.


Michael Norton: [00:14:56] I think that’s right. I mean, I will say the the idea that habits become automatic and then we just continue to execute them forever. That can happen. But for most of us, habits don’t become that kind of automatic, especially habits that are effortful. It’s just if you look at people’s, you know, sticking with exercising every morning, we’re not great. We’re just not. We’re just not doing that. Life intervenes and all these sorts of things. So it’s true that it can happen, that you repeat habits over time and then they just become built-in. But it is often there’s still intention, even with habits, because you’ve still got to put your shoes on and go outside at 6 a.m. and start running. That’s part of the that’s why it’s so hard to have our habits. And one of the things that we see is that rituals can help us a little bit with that. So I was talking to some elite runners and just very simply asking them, how do you tie your shoes? They just have wonderful stories. I mean, you know, very different from each other, very complicated.


Michael Norton: [00:15:59] When they started, why they started, it was their coach. It was, you know, I mean, all of these things about how they tie their shoes, it’s probably one of maybe brushing your teeth is more boring, but tying your shoes is pretty boring. You know, you just you put your shoe on and you tie it and there you go. And for them, it becomes a ritual. It’s part of how they get themselves going so that they’ll go and run. And I do think we see that with not just elite runners, but also regular folks as well, that sometimes we build in a little bit more of a meaning into some aspect of the habit in order to imbue it with more than just, oh God, drudgery. But something else, right? And when I tie my shoes this way, and again, I use silly examples on purpose. When I tie my shoes this way, I feel ready to go, and maybe I’ll be more likely to actually go and run whatever they run 20 miles instead of ten miles.


Jonathan Fields: [00:16:48] So it’s almost like it’s a signal of something else. So more broadly, if we zoom the lens out, what do rituals do to us? And for us that would argue to make them a bigger part of our lives, to be more intentional about it.


Michael Norton: [00:17:04] So when I started studying them, I was thinking actually that rituals would probably we use them in so many domains of life, you know, weddings and funerals and to get amped up and to calm down, I mean, almost anything we’re trying to do, we involve ritual. At first I thought that maybe what they did was they kind of produced the same outcome across these different domains. In other words, rituals always make us feel X, and then X helps us in different domains. And that’s absolutely not what we find at all. In fact, what we find is that rituals help us often generate the emotion that we’re looking for in that moment or in that context. That’s why we use rituals to get super amped up, like team rituals before a game. And people also use rituals if they’re nervous about something to try to calm themselves down. And it’s very strange that the same behaviors can produce opposite emotional effects. That’s usually not how we work. But that, to me, is why rituals can be so valuable. Is there a we can produce emotions in all kinds of different ways. You know, you can get joy from hugging your spouse, but one of the ways people get all of these emotions is via ritual. And in some of our research, which I’m embarrassed that we called it this, but it’s too late.


Michael Norton: [00:18:13] We we studied this thing called emo diversity. And the idea there is that a lot of focus on being happy and happiness, including in my own research, by the way, just, you know, how do we help people be happier, but almost like having a life of perfect habits, having a life where you’re a perfect ten happy every minute of every day of your life. It’s a nice life, but it’s pretty. One note, you know? I mean, we want to have ups and downs in life. We learn about ourselves through ups and downs. In life. We go to sad movies. We go to horror movies to try to get sadness and fear and all of these things. We like emotional variety, and we show on the research that that variety of emotions is an independent predictor of our well-being. There’s something good about having this variance of emotions and rituals are one of the ways. They’re almost like a tool that we use to try to generate different kinds of emotions and everyday ones, but also things like awe, which is an amazing, amazing motion, that emotion that we rarely feel. And yet rituals are often involved in producing these kinds of extraordinary emotions as well.


Jonathan Fields: [00:19:17] Yeah. It’s interesting you brought up the had a conversation, I think, last year with Dacher Keltner.


Michael Norton: [00:19:22] Oh, great. 


Jonathan Fields: [00:19:22] Emo diversity and awe. And it was like the tie in there. The way you’re describing it also is that beyond rituals, bringing not just the thing into your life, but an emotion to the thing that it brings a certain could I use a term activation energy to it?


Michael Norton: [00:19:39] I think that’s right. I mean, the ritual skeptics and I was a ritual skeptic as well. People say, you know, I don’t do any I don’t do any of this ritual stuff. You know, I’m a rational, whatever kind of person. But you can ask a question like, you know, have you ever made a cake and carefully frosted the cake so that you can eat it? And then before you eat it, what you do is you stick wax candles in it and light them on fire so that the wax gets all over the cake. Then put it in front of someone and have them blow all over the top of the cake and then eat the cake. And of course, the answer is yes, of course I have. But what are we doing there? We’re taking? I mean, cake is kind of delicious in its own right, but when we make it into a birthday cake, we’re adding so much meaning. It’s just cake. But now it’s something completely different. We kind of elevate very basic things into something that has more emotion, different emotions, social connection. I mean, we make a cake into a rite of passage where we’re moving from who we were to who we’re going to be, all with a silly little cake. So they do actually give us something more than just the thing itself. They allow us to place emotions on things that otherwise we might have a harder time accessing.


Jonathan Fields: [00:20:50] Yeah, I mean, that makes a lot of sense. I mean, the cake thing is interesting also, right? Because what you’re describing is not just emotions and a certain meaning overlay, but also and tell me if this makes sense to you, it changes the value proposition of the experience or the activity. So it’s like you all of a sudden eating a piece of cake now becomes, you know, oh, it is a symbol of gathering and of turning the page on another year in life. And if you’re going to say to somebody like, give me a piece of cake, like, place a value on this piece of cake, three bucks. Right? And then a slice of cake from like your child’s first birthday. Right. Place a value on that slice of cake. It’s it’s priceless. Do you feel like rituals would, like, pretty consistently change the value we associate with an experience to?


Michael Norton: [00:21:38] They do for sure. And I think they really allow us to imbue things with an enormous amount of meaning that otherwise is is hard to get to. I was talking to a journalist who was saying that she didn’t really have any rituals, and not in a skeptical way, just looking for advice. Actually, you know, how can I use more of this in my life? And she said, you know, for example, I drink coffee every morning, but I don’t care. You know, it’s not like a ritual. It’s just I need some caffeine. And so she said, how can I make coffee more than just coffee? And I said, well, you know, I don’t know you that well. We just met. But, you know, people will do things like prepare the coffee in a certain way and do that every day so that there’s a little bit more effort of themselves invested in it. And I said, or some people will the tea that they drink or the coffee that they drink, it’s the one that they use. Their grandfather drank or their grandmother drank. So they’re it’s the same tea bag, but it now has more meaning. And then I said, or, you know, you drink out of the same mug that has some meaning for you. And she cut me off and she said, oh my God, I never realized this, but the mug that I drink my coffee out of is, I got it. When my daughter and I were watching elephant seals giving birth, and she said I used the exact same mug every day. And in fact, last week my husband brought me it in a different mug and I made him take it back. So, you know what? You just it’s just liquid in a cup. It’s just a cake on a table. But by doing these things, we actually imbue them with so, so much more. And I mean, in one way you could say what an odd thing that we do, and in another way, what a gift that we’re able to do this with these things in our lives.


Jonathan Fields: [00:23:11] Yeah, I mean, that’s such a cool example too, because it really shows that, I guess. Rituals are in no small part about taking seemingly mundane or ordinary experiences, and without altering the experience in any observable way, making them so much more emotional and meaningful to you simply because of the frame that you bring to them.


Michael Norton: [00:23:30] One of my very favorite examples across all of the research we’ve done across all of these domains, we did look at rituals in relationships and marriage and romantic partnerships. And we’ll ask couples, you know, do you? We don’t say, do you have any rituals because they think we mean people in robes with candles. But we say, you know, are there any is there anything that the two of you do that’s unique to you, that you make sure to do it every day, every week, every month, and usually two-thirds to three-quarters of couples say yes. And this one couple said, every time before we eat, we clink our silverware together. That was it. And it struck me just it’s so powerful because you can feel the emotion in it for them. You know, nobody clicks their silverware together except us. There’s no ancient text that says, clink your silverware together before you eat, but for them, it becomes the tiniest. I mean, what’s more boring than a fork? And yet they’ve turned a fork into a symbol of their relationship, you know? So it’s really. Absolutely. You’re right. It’s the most mundane thing sometimes that we’re able by with ritual to create something more.


Jonathan Fields: [00:24:35] Yeah. And we’ll be right back after a word from our sponsors. You write about also, um, the notion of rituals for savoring, and it sounds like this may be one of those that we’re talking about. Take me deeper into the notion of savoring and how rituals might affect this, or bring more of that into our lives, because I feel like so many of us, we live our lives and we open our eyes, and then we feel like the day just passed by. And you ask somebody, what do you do? And they’re like, I don’t know, but I’m tired.


Michael Norton: [00:25:06] Yeah, exactly. I think email I don’t know, I can’t remember, I’ve already blocked it out, you know, this kind of thing. So another ritual that in addition to birthday cake, another very common one is you can say, have you ever had some liquid poured into a glass and other people have liquid poured into their glass? And then before you drink the liquid, all of you raise your cups up, smash them together and say 1 or 2 words and then drink and everybody says, oh yeah, oh that’s cheers. Of course you do that. Like everybody does that. And he’s like, what are you doing? You know, why would you take your food and bash it against somebody else’s food before you have the food? It’s like, doesn’t make much sense, of course. And yet nearly every culture in the world has something very similar to that. And it’s almost always 1 or 2 words. And they usually mean health or luck or joy or happiness. You know, these very basic words. And what we’re doing, of course, is we’re making the beer and, you know, a lot of cases, more than a beer. It’s a thing. Now we’re all celebrating together. We’re connected to each other just by the simple act of clinking the glass before we drink whatever we’re drinking. Most boring thing in the world again, and yet we can imbue it with more meaning.


Jonathan Fields: [00:26:20] Yeah. I mean, when you think about that in the context of the notion of savoring, also, it’s sort of like it takes any gathering of people and it’s almost like it adds a beat to it to say, ooh, before we just kind of blow through this, can we all be present for a hot second and just note the fact that we’re here together? I mean, does that make sense?


Michael Norton: [00:26:43] It absolutely does. And say one word all at the same time. That says something about how we feel about each other. Can we just take five seconds to do that instead of just drinking and eating, you know, like animals or something? For sure. We use them in exactly this kind of way.


Jonathan Fields: [00:26:58] I’m curious what your sense is, or if you have research on the notion of whether when we do a sort of like a savoring ritual like that, even though it is literally like last a second or two, whether that experience tends to stay with people longer or whether it becomes more indelible in their memories.


Michael Norton: [00:27:18] I love this idea. I don’t think we have specific research on the memory aspect, but even your example of we did research a while ago where we asked people, my colleague Ting Jong, we asked people to either write about February 14th, what they did on February 14th, or write about what they did on February 13th. And then we said, how interesting do you think it’ll be to read about what you wrote on those two days? And people said, well, it’d be more interesting to read about Valentine’s Day than random other day in February. And a month later, we showed them what they’d written, and we showed them the Valentine’s Day, and they said, uh, that’s not that interesting. And the reason was because they’d remembered it, you know, you remember the where you went to dinner with your spouse or your partner that day. It was actually the random day that people were fascinated to read.


Jonathan Fields: [00:28:08] That’s so interesting.


Michael Norton: [00:28:09] Fascinated to read because you say, oh my God, I forgot about that weird, weird dude on the subway. You know, whatever it might have been, or I forgot I had that sandwich or whatever it is. And those are the ones that people were really excited to get back, in a sense. And this ritual, I mean, it’s a time capsule, really, this ritual that humans have of. And it’s very weird. We take things and we bury them in the ground, and then later we dig them up to look at them again. Super unusual thing that humans do. But this is exactly why we’re doing it right. We’re taking mundane, even mundane things actually, and using ritual to bring them back with more meaning. We can savor them for longer, even things that you wouldn’t think you would savor when you bring them back. You’re, you know, the birthday cake from your kid’s first birthday. What an enormous amount of irreplaceable meaning we can get from these kinds of things.


Jonathan Fields: [00:28:58] Yeah, that’s so interesting. And the difference between the, you know, February 13th and 14th for those outside of the U.S. is I don’t even know if Valentine’s Day is an international thing or if it’s just sort of like a hey commercial US thing, like buy a whole bunch of roses and cards. But, um, yeah, that’s the February 14th Association. And as you’re speaking, pardon me, curiosity recently had a conversation with Charan Ranganath about memory and how memory works. And, you know, I think it’s pretty commonly agreed these days that the higher the stakes or the emotion in a moment or experience, the more likely it is to become sort of embedded in longer-term memory. And I feel like it ties in to a certain extent of what you’re talking about here.


Michael Norton: [00:29:37] We’ve also seen that. So if we ask people. How close are you to your extended family, your aunts, your uncles, your cousins, your nephews, your nieces? People will say, you know, oh, we’re pretty close. And if you ask them, well, how do you know them? Like when did you get to know them and what context they say? Well, you know, weddings and funerals and if they’re Christian, you know, we got together for Christmas. If they’re American, they got together for Thanksgiving. And sometimes they say, you know what? The only times I’ve ever seen members of my extended family are on days where there are rituals, we wouldn’t have an extended family. Many families would not even have an extended family without the binding power of rituals to bring us back together. So they do have this element. You know, our memories of our family are completely tied up with our memories of these days that have rituals that are meaningful for us. And I do think that’s one of the it can be hard because traveling home is stressful and all these kinds of things, but at the same time without rituals, if we just said, let’s get the family together on a random day a week before, people would say, I got to cancel, I have this other thing, you know, everybody would drop out. But when it’s Christmas, oh, we got to go. And it’s it could be stressful and a pain to get there. And yet when you’re there, then 30 years later, your kids still know who their cousins are and they have an extended family. Those memories matter so much.


Jonathan Fields: [00:30:58] Yeah. Simply because it you know, it wasn’t just a a day. It was a there was a ritual. So staying on the topic of holidays and family gatherings, you also write about a different take on this. Yes, it can be wonderful. These are the experiences that often embed our associations and how we know people. And like those moments when like this happened and this happened and all these wonderful things. And at the same time, those moments for a lot of people are extremely stressful, um, and, and sometimes benefit from different types of rituals, I believe.


Michael Norton: [00:31:34] So I’m from a large Irish Catholic family. So you’re going to have a lot of differences of opinion about probably anything, any topic that comes up, somebody’s going to disagree with somebody. And so the question is, well, how do we get through these things without people arguing about politics or bringing up resentments from childhood? You know, all this stuff that can happen in families? One of my theories is that one of the things that rituals help us do is they create a structure and an order for these events, down to the notion of, you know, well, these two people always make the cake or the pie, and these two people go and do this, and these two people always go and watch football, and these six people go and play football outside. So you have all of these things that are these traditions in your family over the years, and you’re number one, you’re breaking people up, which is good. You’re giving them something to do, which is great. And it’s almost like by the time we’re done with the whole Thanksgiving, you know, carving the turkey and the pies and everything, the day’s over. We didn’t get any fights and we can all go home. So I think in addition to kind of they have emotional meaning and that sort of stuff, I actually think in a very practical way, rituals can help us through events that otherwise might be very stressful. And funerals are another great example. You know, when somebody passes away, it’s very comforting to have a faith that tells you what you should do next, or to have people who already know how to handle this so that you and your family can have some structure and order over these days. That can be the worst days of your life. So in many contexts, actually, in addition to the emotional part of rituals, they really help us coordinate. And coordination can be very, very important for us to not have things go off the rails.


Jonathan Fields: [00:33:15] Yeah, I mean, it’s really interesting also because it’s it gives a structure to an experience is what you’re describing. And I guess especially experiences that are laden with like really profound emotion, like loss or grief, having that structure, I mean, especially in moments where there’s a big loss and you’re grieving and you, you absolutely you’re completely unmoored and you have no idea what comes next in every other context, knowing what comes next for the next minute, the next day, the next seven days, whatever it may be, whatever the ritual or the structure of that is, has got to really provide a I don’t know how much solace, but some level of like, at least I know this.


Michael Norton: [00:33:57] They also help us in general, but also with grief. They help us get the social support we need because the funeral is a day when everyone goes, everyone is together, and that’s just incredibly important in and of itself. But I think that they also give us a sense that we might get through this, because this ritual has been used for hundreds, thousands of years. And those people got through this. So acute grief feels like it will never, ever go away. When you have that, that kind of grief. And to literally have something that feels proven by time, you know, that other people have used this and they have gotten through this horrible experience. It also is a little it’s almost like social proof that. Maybe I can get through it too, because we have faith in this ritual to really help us with these really difficult situations.


Jonathan Fields: [00:34:47] Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. And it’s interesting, right? Because that’s never spoken, but it’s a part of the fabric of the experience. Like everybody knows, this is what we do. This is what my community, my culture, my faith, tradition, whatever it may be, has done often for thousands of years. There’s got to be a reason it’s been around for this long or it’s got to help in some way. So it’s really interesting. It’s like the underlying assumptions underneath particular rituals, especially wrapped around deeply emotional moments.


Michael Norton: [00:35:18] Yes. Even archaeologists, how they think about early humans as having culture or not. One of the key things that they look for is for burials. Were people buried ceremoniously or not? So when you have you can think of Tutankhamun. I mean, you can think of all kinds of ways in which people are buried ceremoniously. But if someone is buried with special objects next to them, you know that the people in that culture cared about that person and had some shared tradition or practices that they had together, they had some kind of a culture. So we literally use the presence of funeral rites as in a sense, proof that this was a culture of people that cared about each other. That’s how far back and deep these kinds of rituals go.


Jonathan Fields: [00:36:04] Yeah. One of the other contexts that you explore ritual in is the notion of change, personal transformation. And certainly so many of us, you know, have been moments of life where the experience of change, especially big disruptive change, is either initiated by us or thrust upon us involuntarily. You know, like we certainly in the last five years, we have all been like through that latter circumstance in so many different ways. Take me into how ritual often helps us navigate moments like this.


Michael Norton: [00:36:40] You know, I signed a contract to write this book in January of 2020. A book about rituals and the role they play in our lives. And two months later, pretty much every ritual that we practice got completely disrupted, completely disrupted. Couldn’t gather for any of the rituals, including weddings, funerals, but also things we used to do at work. You know, everything got disrupted. And so a question is, do we just stop doing them or do we come up with new ones? It really shows us, you know, if all the rituals are no longer able to be conducted, do we say just. Yeah, those were kind of silly. Anyway. We don’t need them. Or do we say we got to come up with some new things? And what we saw, again and again, is that people came up with new rituals to cope with this huge impact that had affected so many people, and they were things it can be hard to remember, but there were things, you know, everybody went outside on their balcony at 5 p.m. and applauded for first responders that never existed before. Nobody there wasn’t like a group of people that decided we were going to do that. It comes from the culture in the face of this big uncertainty. So we kept seeing, you know, people found new ways to have holidays, new ways to have marriages online and all these kinds of things. So we do see that when times are very turbulent, it is a time when we actually don’t turn away from ritual, but turn toward ritual as one of the ways to help us with this incredible, in this case, thrust upon us change.


Jonathan Fields: [00:38:09] Yeah, it’s both a way to touchstone and also to make some kind of meaning. I mean, the example that you gave also of everyone throwing open their windows and like whooping it up, banging on pots and pans. We were I’m in Colorado now, but we were in New York City in 2020, where New York City was the scariest place on the planet, and it was 7 p.m. every day there. The New York was a ghost town. It was dystopia, like there was no one on the roads and but a 7:00. It’s like every window in the city. Millions of windows got thrown open. People took their pots and pans and started banging and whooping. I have recordings of that for about a month. I can’t listen to more than 5 or 6 seconds without just starting to cry. Here’s my interesting question about this. So that went on for a while, you know, and every time you did it, like, you know, like it was my daughter, me, my wife, we’d go to the window like, this is it was sacred. Yeah. Like you didn’t miss it even if you were out on the. You happen to be out on the street at 7:00 one day, you stopped where you were and you listened to everybody else, and you were just screaming. Yeah. At some point that ended. And I’ve always been curious about that because it was like there was a day where it stopped. Yeah. And I’ve always been curious, like, what happened there? Like what signaled us that it was time and there was no group meeting.


Michael Norton: [00:39:24] Yeah. You know, it just it started with no group meeting, and it ended with no group meeting. I think that we often turn to rituals when we most need them, but that doesn’t mean that we’ll stick with them forever. So in my own life, speaking of a well, that was an intended shock. But still it was shocking. Was having. A child, you know, you, uh, go to the hospital, and then they after a little while, they say, go home, and they just give you a human. You’re supposed to take care of the human forever. I mean, it’s the craziest thing in the world. It’s like, let’s give these…


Jonathan Fields: [00:39:54] God bless and carry on.


Michael Norton: [00:39:55] Come lately. Let’s give these to people who have no idea what they’re doing. Let’s not send anyone with them. That’s an expert. That would be silly. Let’s just have them figure it out themselves. But what happens, of course, with new parents, is. And the thing is, sleep, you know, is the baby sleeping? Are you sleeping? It’s all these conversations that parents have that drive everybody else crazy. And what we did and what so many parents do is in this time of incredible stress, when all you want is sleep for the baby, you turn to ritual, you come up with them. And they’re very elaborate, actually. And if you ask parents to remember what they did when their children were were very small, they remember them exactly. You know, it was these two books and then this song and then the swaddle and then this other song, and then we did this, and then we did that. And after all that whole sequence, then hopefully the baby was asleep. And different parents, every parent has their own specific one that they did, but they have some things in common, but they’re very idiosyncratic and we do those. I’ve now come to believe that we’re actually doing those not to help the baby sleep, but to our earlier conversation, to just feel ourselves that we have some structure and control over what’s going on in our lives. But we don’t do them forever, right? So once our kid learns how to sleep, they wouldn’t tolerate it. For one thing, we’re trying to read them a book every night. So they’re not. They’re these deeply meaningful, powerful rituals that help us in this time when we really, really need them, we really turn to them. And then almost when the crisis has passed, they drop away. We don’t need them anymore. They’re not as applicable anymore. And then we might have a different issue in life where we come up with different rituals to help with that.


Jonathan Fields: [00:41:24] Yeah. The context of, I mean, when the crisis has passed is a phrase he used, and that’s a little bit of what we’re talking about with the pandemic and the rituals around that, and how they drop away when their usefulness drops away, when we’re going through a window of profound change or transformation that we’ve invited. Is that qualitatively different in terms of how, like, how rituals take root and how they last?


Michael Norton: [00:41:49] You know, this is a random aside, but I was talking my daughter is eight and I was asking her about she saw me give a talk on rituals. And in fact, her first off, her only feedback was does that tennis player really pick his wedgie every time? Because I talked about Nadal and Rafael Nadal.


Jonathan Fields: [00:42:06] The perfect question for an eight-year-old after.


Michael Norton: [00:42:08] That, right? I mean, it’s just like also and it probably was the most interesting thing I said. So she, you know, she was spot on. But I was also asking her about birthday, get back to birthday cakes. And I said, well, why do you think we put candles on, on cakes? You know, thinking, as I said, why would we light things on fire and a cake? So I said, why? Why do you think we put candles on cakes? And she thought for a second and she said, so we know how old we are. And it was just this amazing moment where, why do we put the right number of candles on a cake? I mean, why do we put a five and a two? And when you’re turning 52 on a cake, it’s a very weird thing to do. I mean, if you think about it at a very basic level, we make something we have. The thing symbolizes that we’re a new age, and then everyone kind of tears apart the thing in a communal kind of way, and then there’s no evidence of it anymore. And it’s like, okay, well, now I’m not seven, now I’m eight because there were eight candles on the cake. So even in these, changing from 7 to 8 is not a difficult transition because nothing really changes in your life.


Michael Norton: [00:43:07] But even on these, we have the intuition as humans that we should mark them, that something should be done between this and that in order to help us go from who we were before to who we’re going to be next. And it’s across so many domains of life that we turn to ritual. I mean, if you think about other people who say, I don’t have any rituals, it’s like, have you ever put on a weird robe and a weird hat that was either a square or poofy, and walked across the stage and gotten a piece of paper, and everybody claps, and then you sit back down. Of course, people say, oh yeah, well, that’s just a graduation. I mean, why do we have graduations? Right? You’ve already finished all the coursework, but we have this intuition. No, we should mark it. We really should make sure that this is an event where we’re. Before that, we weren’t graduates and now we’re graduates. So many cultures have exactly the same kinds of things where there’s something where you go from this to that, and it does seem for people to to kind of demarcate that identity in a way that’s helpful.


Jonathan Fields: [00:44:09] Yeah. It’s interesting as you’re describing that. Also, um, I’m thinking about how people receive different sort of milestone moments that would normally be associated with rituals very differently. So like one person might be turning 50 and they’re so excited to bring all of their friends together and have that cake with the five and the zero candle on top of it. And then another person might be turning 50 and they might be thinking to themselves, okay, I’m turning 50. Like like we. Can’t put that off a day or a month until I’m more ready. Like it’s happening. Yeah. And normally, like, you gather people to acknowledge it, to savor it, to celebrate it. But I don’t want people like, I want to break the ritual for this one, because there’s something about this one particular thing where the fact that having the ritual that has happened to every year for the last 49 years up until now, like repeating that same ritual on this particular moment, it’s triggering for some reason instead of savoring.


Michael Norton: [00:45:09] Yeah, it’s almost like you’re in denial. Like if I don’t, if I don’t do the thing, I’m not really 50. Maybe I can stay 49.


Jonathan Fields: [00:45:17] Then the day is just a day. It’s not like really a birthday.


Michael Norton: [00:45:18] Yeah, I’m basically still 49. I wonder if that’s so interesting. I wonder if we do use them as a delay tactic. Yeah.


Jonathan Fields: [00:45:25] yeah. And we’ll be right back after a word from our sponsors. So you used graduation as an interesting ritual. Also, do you make a distinction between rituals and what what often people call rites of passage is having conversation not too long ago with Chip Conley, who runs this wonderful experience, Modern Elders Academy, MEA And the whole notion behind that is that we have these things called rites of passage for all these other major milestones in life for, you know, like graduating high school for partnering with someone. If you’re, you know, you partner with someone for graduating this for for moving from one season of life to the next season of life, we have all these established rites of passage yet for, you know, moving from sort of like middle age into a more seasoned, you know, part of life where a lot of shifts had happened. There’s no ritual, there’s no rite of passage, and that we suffer because of that. Are we talking about kind of the same thing here? When we use the phrase rites of passage and ritual.


Michael Norton: [00:46:24] I think that rites of passage are one, almost like a subcategory of ritual. And we can think of other subcategories as well, but they are one that the very, very common across different transitions in life. And I think they’re extremely important. And I have been very interested in these cases where it appears that we need one, but the humans have not come up with it, and one of them is, in fact the transition from working to not working at retirement. You might have a little ceremony or something and you get a watch, something like that. But, you know, it might not be sufficient to say I’m no longer the person I was for the last 45 years or whatever it might be. And you see people struggling so much with the transition to retirement. Would a ritual solve the you know? Of course not. But could it be helpful? I think so the other place that I think they’re really sorely lacking is when relationships end with divorce. We have nothing. There’s no cultural thing that we do for people when they get divorced. When they get married, we do lots of stuff. There’s you know what I mean? There’s a bridal shower, the bachelor party. We have all these things set up for the beginning, and we have nothing for the end. And of course, the end can be a lot more challenging than the beginning. And yet, culturally, we don’t have something. But people freelance. Some people who do, um, I forget exactly what they call it. But on the day of their divorce, every year they get their friends together and just make fun of the person they divorced, you know? So so you can you can make an anniversary out of a negative thing as a way of owning it. So we’re capable, I think, of coming up with things to address these gaps, but I haven’t seen one really that feels like it would help with the transition that you’re talking about.


Jonathan Fields: [00:48:01] Um, yeah. And I think that’s why Chip started doing what he’s doing, because it is so profound. But there’s no it’s sort of like at that point culture just says, yeah, you know, like keep on keeping on, like you did your thing, whatever. Like you’re like, now you get to relax. But it is an interesting, as you were describing that many, many, many years ago, I was working for a big federal government agency. And every time, like somebody left the agency, you know, everyone would gather and the head of the agency would come and present a plaque and a letter opener or a pen or whatever it is. And there was this grizzled old investigator who used to crochet a dinosaur that he believed most matched the qualities of the person leaving and present it to them. I love that during the ceremony. And but what’s so funny about that is like, I remember that this is like 30 years ago, and I remember like those moments, not because of the plaque or because I remember any I don’t I couldn’t tell you the people, but I can tell you, I remember those moments because of that one goofy thing.


Michael Norton: [00:49:02] Yeah, yeah. And he invested himself in it, you know, to create them for people. It’s much more meaningful than just getting a watch off Amazon or whatever it might be.


Jonathan Fields: [00:49:11] Yeah. You also explore I mean, it’s interesting sort of like the, the notion that sometimes in work, but also I think in culture these days, the notion that all rituals aren’t necessarily positive, like there are rituals that heal, but there are also rituals that separate us, that divide us.


Michael Norton: [00:49:28] And I think this is so important because rituals provoke a lot of emotions, and it would be wonderful if all of them were positive, but they’re not. What rituals do is they provoke strong emotions, and those can be awe and joy, and they can be anger and fear as well. I wish I could write a book that said, just add rituals and you’ll be happy, and it’s just not how they work at all. You know, they increase the diversity of our emotions, but it’s not unidirectional. And we do see, I mean, when we do research on teams at work, for example, we can bring people into our lab actually and have we can take strangers and have them do a team ritual or a different kind of team ritual, and then we can ask them at the end, you know, how meaningful do you think this group is? And we can see that when teams do things that are more ritualistic, even though we just made it up, they do start to see each other as more meaningful compared to teams that don’t do anything like that. So we see these real benefits of these rituals. And yet at the same time in. Other risks and you trust them as more as well.


Jonathan Fields: [00:50:34] So this would be like a classic, sort of like simple team building type of exercise or something completely, completely.


Michael Norton: [00:50:39] And you’re in unison, you know, you’re doing all this stuff.


Jonathan Fields: [00:50:42] Together, like you have to work together to get the thing done. Exactly right.


Michael Norton: [00:50:45] So that’s great, right? You get the groups meaningful, you trust each other more. It’s wonderful. Except then sometimes in the research we’ll say, oh, here’s another group. And they do it differently from you. And if you didn’t do anything of your own, you don’t care what anybody else does. But if you as a group have gotten a ritual in place, well, now, it’s not just that our ritual is good, it’s that our ritual is correct. And as soon as our ritual is correct, it means any deviation is incorrect. And we actually show that when you see groups engaging in something different, you distrust them. You’re not neutral. You actually distrust them now because they are. And people say this, they’re doing it wrong. And we say, but you just did the ritual for the first time. You know, I mean, this is a new ritual that you just started this week. And they say, I don’t care. They’re still doing it wrong. So very, very quickly they can produce this positive element in groups. And they can also produce this negative element as well about groups that were not a part of who now we think need to be corrected.


Jonathan Fields: [00:51:45] Oh, that’s so interesting. And I would imagine even like okay, now somebody new comes into the group. They didn’t go through the original exercise where it’s like, this is how we do it together. And they’re like, I have a bit of a different idea of how to do this. And it’s like, that is not how we work here. And I wonder how that also, like affects people being locked in to a state of mind and assigning a certain meaning to like this is how we do things. That creates a level of rigidity and a lack of innovation and creativity and all sorts of other things, for sure.


Michael Norton: [00:52:17] I mean, I think they put up barriers at the same time that even as they help us coordinate, could help us, you know, coordinate and be creative and all these lovely things. They put up barriers. And in contexts where you really can’t have barriers, you can see how they would not just be neutral but actually harm us.


Jonathan Fields: [00:52:33] Yeah. If you think about rituals across all different domains, are you able to identify sort of a common set of elements or like like step one, step two, or just like, like these are the five things that tend to make for a successful ritual?


Michael Norton: [00:52:51] I have to the answer is very frustrating. Not really. Mm. So, um, what would have been amazing is if we had discovered that, you know, clapping seven times and stomping six times, somehow, magically, that transformed us into whatever, you know, and we just don’t see it because, again, the same exact actions for one person that are so meaningful can be completely irrelevant to another person. It is true, actually, that a physical component is important. So only in your head is not as good as also doing something physically. It tends to be the combination that there’s some psychological element of meaning, something attached to this, and then the physical element that you’re really actually doing something in the service of that. But what’s so fascinating is the something that you do can be almost anything. I mean, I don’t want to overclaim, you know, we haven’t looked at every single thing in the world. But when you look at the examples people use, they’re pulling from everything in the world. A woman who’s, we asked, think of someone you lost, she wrote. I washed his car every weekend the way that he used to. There’s definitely no ancient text that says, wash your car, there’s no cars. We use things in our environment and build ritual around them. Washing the car might do nothing for you or me, but for her, it’s a deep expression of something that’s important about the person that she lost. And one way it’s frustrating that we can’t point to, you know, these are the behaviors. On the other hand, it’s very liberating because we’re actually very free. And what we use and what we build into these kinds of rituals.


Jonathan Fields: [00:54:27] Got it. So then if somebody is listening to this and they’re thinking, okay, I see there’s value in this thing called ritual, and I’d like to have more of this in my days and my months in my life. Where do we start? Like, what are some questions that we should start asking ourselves?


Michael Norton: [00:54:42] The first easy one is actually to, you know, saying, add 19 rituals in your day. Tomorrow is like, I don’t have time for that, you know, or meditate for four hours and you know, I don’t have time for that. So the very first step for me always is actually almost to take an inventory of where they’re already happening in your life. Often as people are listening to us chat, they might in some domains they might say, what? I don’t have anything like that. And then the very next domain that you and I chatted about, they say, oh, actually, yeah, my wife and I do this, so, so or we did this with our kids when we were putting them to bed. So we have these different domains of life where we have them in place, but we might not have really recognized them or owned them in the way that we could. And so that really is the first step that you actually just take a beat, as you said earlier, you really say, you know, this is our little special thing that we do and really kind of appreciate it even more. And. We see, then you almost sometimes will laugh at yourself, but in a very kind and lovely way, like, oh my God, here I go with my fork clinking again, you know, or whatever it might be.


Michael Norton: [00:55:39] So that really is the first step actually, is just to see where they are already and appreciate them a little bit more. And then the next step, I think, is thinking of domains in life where you might want to experiment. So if you’re somebody who doesn’t get nervous before meetings at all, don’t experiment with a pre-performance routine because you’re not going to do anything for you, right? Because you’re already just fine. But if you are somebody who gets nervous before meetings, try something out as a ritual to see if it can help you. You know they’re not magical. Like you snap your fingers and you’re perfectly calm. But there are an interesting thing to try out across these domains in life. If your family dinner time is terrible, try to think if you can come up with something that might make it a little more meaningful or a little more connecting than just everybody staring at each other in silence.


Jonathan Fields: [00:56:25] I love that simple and individual feels a good place for us to come full circle. So in this container of Good Life Project., if I offer up the phrase to live a good life, what comes up?


Michael Norton: [00:56:35] The word that came to mind is generosity. Actually, I think if you lack generosity, I think life is actually a lot harder for you, because I think not only is it repaid, but just in the service of other people is such. I mean, in our other research, we’ve literally shown that when you help other people or spend money on other people, it makes you happier. And I think that’s just a small case of using money to help other people. I think in general, generosity is, uh, lacking. That makes it very hard to have a really rich and meaningful life. And when I think of the people in my life who are very generous, they’re often the people that I respect the most and who seem to have it the most figured out as well.


Jonathan Fields: [00:57:16] Mm. Thank you. Hey, before you leave, if you love this episode, Safe bet, you’ll also love the conversation we had with James Clear about habits. You’ll find a link to James’s episode in the show notes. This episode of Good Life Project was produced by executive producers Lindsey Fox and me, Jonathan Fields. Editing help By Alejandro Ramirez. Kristoffer Carter crafted our theme music and special thanks to Shelley Adelle for her research on this episode. And of course, if you haven’t already done so, please go ahead and follow Good Life Project. in your favorite listening app. And if you found this conversation interesting or inspiring or valuable, and chances are you did. Since you’re still listening here, would you do me a personal favor, a seven-second favor, and share it? Maybe on social or by text or by email? Even just with one person? Just copy the link from the app you’re using and tell those you know, those you love, those you want to help navigate this thing called life a little better so we can all do it better together with more ease and more joy. Tell them to listen, then even invite them to talk about what you’ve both discovered. Because when podcasts become conversations and conversations become action, that’s how we all come alive together. Until next time, I’m Jonathan Fields, signing off for Good Life Project.

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