I recently watched the movie Frozen 2 with my family. Right before a key moment, where Elsa has to face a difficult, epic task, she takes out her braid, and puts her hair in a ponytail.
Then she is able to accomplish what she set out to do.
Was her characteristic braid going to interfere with the challenge ahead of her? I don’t think so.
I think that the act of putting her hair in a ponytail was her ritual, and that gave her strength and reduced her performance anxiety.
This is sounds absurd, and too good to be true.
But time and time again, as researchers looked at these “rituals” and “superstitions” they also found that the people who used them were able to perform better, and with less performance anxiety.
For example, in sports, many famous athletes swear by pre-game rituals to calm their nerves.
David “Big Papi” Ortiz retired in 2016 as one of the best baseball players in Boston Red Sox history. Papi was known for his exceptional at-bats, hitting over 540 home runs in his career. Each time Papi approached the batter’s box, he rested his bat against his legs, spat on his right hand, and clapped.
Did any of this contribute to his skill? Did it give him more power for his home runs? No. But performance anxiety can negatively affect how athletes perform.
So, by developing a ritual to get his head in the game, he was able to get over his performance anxiety and thus able to achieve more as a player.
He isn’t the only sports player to swear by an interesting ritual.
Basketball superstar Michael Jordan wore his North Carolina shorts underneath his Chicago Bulls shorts in every game; Curtis Martin of the New York Jets reads Psalm 91 before every game. And Wade Boggs, former third baseman for the Boston Red Sox, woke up at the same time each day, ate chicken before each game, took exactly 117 ground balls in practice, took batting practice at 5:17, and ran sprints at 7:17. (Boggs also wrote the Hebrew word Chai (“living”) in…