The Ritual Effect

From Habit to Ritual, Harness the Surprising Power of Everyday Actions


In the bestselling tradition of Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit and Angela Duckworth’s Grit, a renowned social psychologist demonstrates the power of small acts—and how a subtle turning of habits into rituals can add purpose and pleasure to life.

Our lives are filled with repetitive tasks meant to keep us on track—what we come to know as habits. Over time, these routines (for example, brushing your teeth or putting on your right sock first) tend to be performed automatically. But when we’re more mindful about these actions—when we focus on the precise way they are performed—they can instead become rituals. Shifting from a “habitual” mindset to a “ritual” mindset can convert ordinary acts from black and white to technicolor.

Think of the way you savor a certain beverage, the care you take with a particular outfit that gets worn only on special occasions, the unique way that your family gathers around the table during holidays, or the secret language you enjoy with your significant other. To some, these behaviors may seem quirky, but because rituals matter so deeply to us on a personal level, they imbue our lives with purpose and meaning. Drawing on a decade of original research, Norton shows that rituals play a role in healing communities experiencing a great loss, marking life’s major transitions, driving a stadium of sports fans to ecstasy, and helping us rise to challenges and realize opportunities.

Compelling, insightful, and practical, The Ritual Effect reminds us of the intention-filled acts that drive human behavior and create sur­prising satisfaction and enjoyment.

About the author(s)

Michael Norton is the Harold M. Brierley Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. He has studied human behavior as it relates to love and inequality, time and money, and happiness and grief. He is the author of The Ritual Effect and the coauthor—with Elizabeth Dunn—of Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending. In 2012, he was selected by Wired magazine as one of “50 People Who Will Change the World.” His TEDx talk, How to Buy Happiness, has been viewed nearly 4.5 million times. He is a frequent contributor to such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Scientific American, and has made numerous television, radio, and podcast appearances.


Selected as SELF Magazine’s Book of the Month

“Norton lauds the capacity of ritual to infuse quotidian acts with a sense of consequence…enjoyable fare…abounds in recommendations for ways we readers may add the emollient of ritual to our own lives.”
—Wall Street Journal

“Amiable and diverting…offers a reason for cautious optimism: in a disenchanted world, attention to tiny rituals can clear a little space for everyday magic.”
—The Guardian

The Ritual Effect isn’t your typical, preachy self-help manual. In fact, Norton has no interest in telling you which rituals are worth adopting—that part is up to you. Instead, the book breaks down the true meaning of rituals and positive ways they can impact your relationships, personal and professional lives, and sense of self, reframing the concept as something much fresher, more special, and more accessible than you may have once thought.”
SELF Magazine

“Norton’s fascinating The Ritual Effect encourages us to experiment with, explore, and discover rituals to help transform the ordinary into the extraordinary…lively…may be just what the doctor ordered.”
—Book Page

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