I had a different topic planned for today’s post, but at the last minute I was dissatisfied with where that topic was going, so I changed. I learned a few things about my writing while completing my novels. Whenever I found myself uncomfortable with where the story was going or I felt what some authors refer to as writer’s block, I knew I was not following the flow of the story. The solution was often to go back to the text and find where the story wanted to go. This set of posts wanted to go somewhere else. It wanted to talk about one of the most powerful rituals I have seen and experienced for creating sustainability. That is the ritual of Date Night.
In the introduction to this section, I listed couples interaction as a ritual. Date Night is only one of the couples interactions that help create and support Individual Sustainability. In fact, Date Night is actually a type of ritual that is about more than just couples. It includes families and more. When I describe couples interaction as a ritual what I really am talking about is making specific and ritualistic time in your schedule for the other half of the work-life balance equation.
For something to be a ritual, it must be something repeated on a cadence with some specific characteristics. That doesn’t mean that the activity is static or boring. What we do in a ritual could be different each time. What makes it a ritual in this case are the people, the time, and the type of activity.
In my discussions and observations of Date Night with friends, I have discovered a key theme. Create time for the partners to be together within their normally challenging schedule. The actual outcomes or benefits of this ritual vary. Some couples like to create a time and place where they can be together, alone, without the kids or anyone else for a little while. For other couples it is more about being together, even if others are along. I have even seen entire collections of friends go somewhere together, to be able to reconnect as a group while getting that needed time as couples.
The key element of Date Night to these couples is creating a regularly repeating commitment to each other. It is about setting a time that is inviolate and holding themselves and their work lives to that commitment. Obviously there are always exceptions that cannot be avoided, but the couples agree that the time together is important. The critical component of this ritual and the understanding is the commitment to be there and make an effort to protect what is important. The benefits for each person are different, and as long as every person is clear on the importance of the ritual it can be a very rewarding ritual.
As you can see in the examples I listed above, this ritual does not have to be restricted to two people. It can be entire groups that get together regularly. Other examples I often see of this same ritual are Movie and Game Night with the family (or friends). When my career was taking up a larger portion of my life than I expected, I had a regular movie night with friends. Together, we used the time to burn off the stresses of work, talk about things we wanted to do and didn’t want to do, plan dreams, build futures in both business and social life. In another time of my life I also had a Game Night that fulfilled a critical need I had to be creative and have fun when my career was in a lull and I was not feeling I had a creative outlet. I also had a Date Night ritual for a while with my wife when the diffusion of responsibilities were creating an absence of time for just us. I have used all three of these applications of Date Night rituals to create sustainability in my life.
Each person involved in these rituals can have similar needs and receive similar benefits. Each person can also have completely different needs and get completely different benefits. Be cautions of the negative implementation of this ritual where one person involved is getting a benefit and the other or others feel that it is another chore to be completed. Be sensitive to the fact that this dynamic can exist and that you need to work out the benefits for each person for this to be successful and create sustainability for everyone.
Sustainability through Ritual is achieved when the ritual creates a benefit to you and provides a break from the stresses of work or whatever you are trying to balance. The most common benefit of the Date Night ritual, no matter the specific implementation, is created by people creating a regular opportunity to isolate themselves from distraction and other stresses to be together and share their lives and experiences. If you are able to create that space and shared experience with someone or even a group of people, it can be a stabilizing ritual that balances work and life better. Through this stabilization you and everyone involved can have or improve their Individual Sustainability.