The following is Part 1 of a Master Your Morning series meant to help you start each day the right way. Over the coming articles, I’ll introduce a handful of keys habits to implement to your morning routine. Adjust these ideas to match your age, interests, and ability to start each day proactive, positive and present. It’s a choice to let excuses, ego or lack of effort get in the way. Once you manage to overcome these blocks and master your morning you open the door to a new realm of personal power, freedom, and growth. Feels good, doesn’t it? What are you waiting for? Let’s get started!
Why Did I Want To Master My Morning
I spent all last spring selling nearly everything I own. I sold my car, gave away clothes and purchased a one-way ticket to Costa Rica with no real plans on when I’d return. For a full year before I decided to walk away from what I once thought was my dream career, I was depressed, overstressed, and overwhelmed. I felt stuck in a career and I couldn’t imagine living this way for the next 20+ years. Really, I was unhappy with myself. I dreaded the day and hated the life I had created. It seemed I was at the mercy of my bad mood and, after a back injury kept me from the gym, I crumbled to the lowest point of my life. I was sick of living life looking forward to retirement. I was desperate.
It wasn’t until I stumbled across a video that described the power of a morning routine did I realize I could start to break away from my bad mood and attitude if I set out to create a routine for myself. I realized I was living a life dictated by chance and circumstance, not one that I consciously created.
I learned in that video that it’s rarely some big break that makes someone successful, but rather a set of planned habits, routines, and behaviors that they start up to build and sustain their success over time.
There is a method behind the magic. I learned that in order to climb out of the hole I had dug for myself, I’d need to take complete ownership of myself and the best place to start was my habits. It’s true, either you make your habits or your habits will make you so I dove in an attempt to take back control of my life. It worked.
How I Started Mastering My Mornings
I started to build my morning routine and have worked to master it every day since. This simple yet life-changing daily practice laid a foundation of freedom that carried me on what ended up being a 10-month around the world backpacking trip. The trip was so incredibly rich with experience and growth. It was truly better than I could have ever imagined, and I’m a completely different person than I once was, but none of it would have happened, had I not made the decision to take back my life nearly 2 years ago. If I would have not begun to master my mind, body, and mood when I was at the lowest point of my life, none of this would have ever happened.
In the age of information, ignorance is a choice and I was ignorant. I was ignorant to the fact that I, and I alone, was in charge of creating a life that I love. This morning routine laid the foundation for me to do just that and more.
I’m more focused, productive, patient and positive than ever before because I am now no longer living a life dictated by bad mornings and moods.
I’ve instead consciously created habits that get my mind, body, and motivation on track so I can go out and have an amazing day. Although quitting your job and moving away might not be for all of you, intentionally initiating this morning routine is. After some trial and error, I created habits that first pulled me out of my darkest days and then pushed me on a trip around the world. I’d like to share it with you. We’re going to start with mindset.
Mindset – Gratitude
The habit of gratitude is a subtle yet incredibly powerful practice that shifts your perspective to all things positive. It allows you to direct your focused awareness to and actively look out for the good things going on in your life. By training your brain to notice the good things about each day, like some sort of magic, more things to be grateful for appear. No matter where you are, what has happened or how you feel, there is always something to be grateful for. Do not miss this opportunity!
Gratitude increases energy and empathy and reduces anger and aggression. It can improve your sleep and increase your self-esteem. By saying “thank you” and being grateful we can strengthen our relationships and resiliency and even make new friends. Who wants to be friends with someone who can’t manage common courtesies? Don’t let that be you. There are a number of subtle yet serious health benefits that come along with this habit not including the fact that it is absolutely free. With gratitude, you get to create your life by choosing what to focus on and there’s no personal freedom as powerful as that.
It’s time to acknowledge how far you’ve come. It’s time to appreciate your unique skills, strengths, and abilities. Now is the time to acknowledge the people in your life and all of the opportunities that have made you who you are at this exact moment in time. Each morning after you jump out of bed write, type or tell someone the 3 things you’re most grateful for in your personal and professional life. Next, take time to acknowledge 3 things you are grateful for about yourself. There’s a reason you’re here and the reason you’re reading this. Take some time to recognize, reflect on and appreciate these people, places and past experiences and remind yourself of all things great.
Want to get the kids involved? Play the Gratefulness Game. Whether on long car rides or around the table, take turns saying one thing you are grateful for. It can be anything, except what a person before you has said and whatever other house rules your tribe comes up with. Keep going in the circle for a specified amount of time or until there’s only one person left standing. The winner gets a free hug or high-five, and a shift in perspective that just might change the course of their life.
Habit 1: Write down 3 things you’re grateful for in each of the following categories: Personal life, Professional life, and About you!
Movement – Exercise
Your body is the unconscious mind. Like a puppy, you must teach it to sit, stay and obey. After years of inattention, an untrained dog will destroy your house. The good news is you can train it to follow your commands and even clean up the mess. It will take time, depending on your levels of laziness and lifestyle but this dog will eventually obey. If you are serious about mastering your life and your day starting each morning moving around. Movement is the second habit to introduce to your morning routine.
Morning exercise regulates the sleep-wake cycle, jump starts your metabolism, increases intestinal mobility and sets the tone for the day. As your heart rate goes up you send more oxygen and nutrients to your brain, shaking off the cobwebs and priming your mind and body to have an amazing day. Most importantly, this habit over time trains your body to do things your mind tells it to do. Show your body who’s boss!
(Note: This 5-minute bout of exercise is enough to start to master your morning. It is not, however, enough for you to totally transform your physical health. It’s a starting point and increases the likelihood you’ll have the energy to complete your workout later on but should not be used as a replacement for a daily exercise routine.)
Run, jump, squat, crawl, push or pull. Jump into your day the right way with 5 minutes of conscious controlled movement and exercise. We’re not setting records here people, simply getting the juices flowing. By the time you’re finished, your heart should be thumping and forehead sweaty. HITT, Tabata, or make up your own. Follow whatever structure you want so long as you can sustain the habit over time. Jump up after your mindset practice and move your body right away.
Habit 2: Move your body for 5 minutes every. single. morning.
Motivation – Preplan and Prioritize
Do you ever spend the whole day at your desk but end up not being any closer to your goals? Yea, you’re busy, but are you productive? If you’re ready to push back against this energy zapper prime your day for productivity, passion, and purpose each morning. Preplan the day ahead and prioritize the most important work. Ask yourself, how can I prioritize my days’ to-dos so I get the most important things done and still have the energy for the things that I love? You do have a to-do list, right?
Preplanning your day and prioritizing your to-do’s is the difference between having a busy day and having a productive day. This is one of the habits I pushed off for so long because I thought I was productive enough. Not until I really sat down and started to preplan did I notice how much of a difference this time management tip makes. The more productive you are during the day the more energy you’ll have to spend time on your passions and with the people you love. In an increasingly fast-paced and uncertain world, it’s time to sit down, buckle up and get shit done. Who’s counting on you to be present, positive and proactive in this life? Do it for them!
Before you head out the door, start your day proactively by prioritizing your to-do’s, making time for your passions and aligning the work ahead with your purpose. Whether you write in a handheld planner or use an app on your phone, fill in your calendar each morning so you can be intentional with your time each day. Break your day into time blocks with your most important, must-do, to-dos at the top of the list. Get the biggest projects and most labor-intensive work checked off first thing. Feeling accomplished? After you’ve knocked out the most important tasks, fulfill any leftover commitments and obligations. Start the day with proactive work (writing, creating, making, building) and save the reactive stuff (responding, helping, listening, watching) until the end of the day. Either way, write it down or it won’t get done.
Habit 3: Spend 5 minutes each morning preplanning and prioritizing your day’s to-dos.
What I Learned
Remember, if you do not implement healthy habits and reinforcing routines your life will be at the mercy of your mood and motivation levels. It takes a conscious focused effort to create a life that you love, and this simple and effective routine will lay a firm foundation for you to do just that. All of these practices can and should be implemented the very next time you roll out of bed. Do them at home, on the road or on the other side of the world but take action today and build this routine into your morning!