Humans are wired for structure and routine. The certainty they provide creates order in the midst of chaos. But I’m not talking about the type that has you thinking, feeling and doing the same thing every day without any conscious thought. I’m suggesting you need a structure that provides you with balance, clarity, energy and focus to actually realize your goals. Daily structure provides the space we need to maintain our sanity throughout the day. The consciously created morning routine is the calm in the storm.
Starting in 6th grade I was regularly getting kicked out of school for fighting, skipping class, and cussing out teachers. My broke, single mom of four kids could barely keep us all afloat. I was reckless, angry and headed down a very dark path until I met a mentor that helped me clean it up just enough to graduate early from high school and join the Marine Corps. Over the next four years, I went on three deployments, was meritoriously promoted twice, and recognized as “Marine of the Quarter.”
The military provided the structure missing from my childhood.
In the US Marines, structure is a way of life. Wake up call is at 5:30 am and you’re down in formation ready for physical training by 6 am. After the morning run, you clean up, shower and shave before 8 am. Although each day was a bit different, and some were busier than most, there was clear order and a chain of command. We knew where we needed to go, what to do once we got there and who would yell at us if we didn’t get it done. We thrived as a team because we had the structure and sense of direction a team needs to succeed.
Leaving the comfort of comradery and unmistakable structure and sense of purpose, many veterans find the transition difficult. There’s no wonder why so many fall on their face once they leave the service. The vacuum caused by a lack of meaningful structure is the reason humans lose their way. Too many return home leaving too much up to chance or circumstance. If you’re not willing or otherwise unable to build systems in your life that will help you succeed, you are destined to fail. But structure and routine aren’t just for Marines and troubled teens. You need them too.
Had I known that it was even possible to alter my mindset, mood, and motivation through my own personal action, my childhood and my military transition would have been quite different. Now, everything has changed. I believe, with the right structure and support, any dream can become a reality for every single person willing and ready to work for it. Coaches, mentors and great friends and family provide the support but, if structure is lacking in your life, you must create it for yourself. Let this morning routine serve as a starting point.
The discipline it takes to damn near religiously follow this sort of structure is one of the first steps needed to maintain sustainable success. The following 3 habits are the missing links in your routine to make you more positive, present and proactive so you can enjoy the life you’ve created. Don’t let off now, read on to learn the new habits to take your mind, body, and soul to the next level every single morning. Adding these to the start of your day is a surefire way to transform your life. These habits should be used in addition to the habits learned in Part 1. If you missed out on that, catch up here. Now, let’s jump back in!
Mindset – Meditate
Mindfulness is simply being aware of your thoughts, feelings, emotions and experience. Do you hear the birds chirping? Do you feel your heart beating? Do you recognize that you’re a bit tired and weary today? Meditation is a life changing practice that brings mindful awareness to all of that. This is not a fad. It’s been bringing peace to people around the world for centuries. No single habit will inject as much space, energy and clarity into your life than regular and consistent practice of meditation. Sit down and enjoy!
Too much stress? Meditate. Anxious or angry? Meditate. Feeling down or depressed? Meditate. Trouble sleeping? Meditate. Short-term memory loss? Meditate. Want to completely and drastically change your life, outlook and perspective in a matter of a few weeks? Meditate. Meditation provides an abundance of mental, emotional, psychological and social benefits. There’s a whole host of scientifically backed benefits of the regular practice of mediation, if you’re into that kind of stuff. Speaking from personal experience, meditation has changed my life, saved my relationships and clarified my path and purpose. With regular practice, I’ll bet it will do the same for you.
There are a number of different meditation practices and platforms for learning more. Find the one that best serves you. The 6-Phase Meditation is a great way to learn the fundamentals of different meditation techniques. If you’re interested in a more straightforward way to meditate, and learn about the human mind, try the Waking Up app. For more basic guided meditations, check out Simple Habit or Headspace. Be sure to download our ALV meditation guide. At the most basic form, you can start the practice of mediation by sitting comfortably upright in a quiet room. Next, follow the feeling of your breathe as you inhale and exhale. Your mind will start to wander and once you notice that it has, gently guide your awareness back to the breath. Don’t let those thoughts that say “it’ll never work or “this is stupid” or “meditation isn’t for me” derail you. That’s your ego, and it’s scared of the freedom you will gain once you break from its grasps. Acknowledge the thoughts that pull you up and onwards and let go of the those that no longer serve you. Following the gratitude practice from Part 1, meditate for 5 minutes each day and clear your mind of thoughts that get in the way.
Habit 1b: Mindfully Meditate for 5 to 20 minutes every morning.
Movement – Mobility
The ability to move gets seemingly more difficult as we get older. Who doesn’t have a creek and a groan in their weary joints? But are we being as proactive and intentional with this body as we can? As important it is to move every day, it’s just as important to work on our mobility. Mobility is the practice of consciously moving each of our limbs and joints through their full range of motion. Our bodies are built for action but the majority of us spend all damn day on our butts leading to imbalances, back pain, stiffness and opening the door for injury. Through training and conscious effort we can improve our range of motion thereby correcting imbalances and preventing injuries so we stay upright, mobile and free.
The ability to consciously and under control move your joints through their full range of motion is vital to your health and well being, unless your picture of health has you so tight and contorted you are unable to stand upright. This practice will reduce aches, pains, and imbalances so you’re more active, alert and ready for life. If your back is bothersome, knees hurt and shoulders round and you are not actively incorporating a regular movement and mobility routine there’s no-one to blame but yourself. Let’s make some changes today.
In the spirit of being proactive with your health spend 5 minutes on a mobility routine so you start off each day loose, limber and relaxed. For specific instructions or a mobility plan ready to use pay for a program or create a practice that fits your preferences by searching mobility on Youtube. Ensure you’re hitting all major joints and limbs paying close attention to any pain points, imbalances or tightness. Calmly and under control, move your body the way it was supposed to move, without cutting corners or cheating yourself. Combine this practice with a couple minutes of static stretching and foam rolling to reverse the effects of life lived in a chair just after your morning burst of exercise.
Habit 2b: After you move, spend 5 minutes each morning increasing mobility.
Motivation: Visualize the perfect day
Wouldn’t you show up differently each day if you knew everything was going to unfold perfectly? Instead of leaving the days agenda up to chance or circumstance, create it by visualizing the best possible outcome. Visualization packs a superpower punch that, like a magnet, moves mountains to attract the thoughts, feelings and experiences you are after in life. But don’t let the mountains discourage you. In the case of our mornings, the practice of visualizing your perfect day is simply a form of intention setting for how you will think, act, feel and show up the rest of the day. The most successful people decide how their day will unfold and that is just what we are doing when we visualize the coming day.
This practice of combining intention setting and visualization brings clarity and purpose to each day. It guides your thoughts and inspires actions. We often reaffirm our values during the practice and when we live in tune with our values we are all more happy, healthy, focused and free. The mind does not know the difference between something you vividly imagine and something you actually experience. With practice, you’ll start to see, feel and experience what you’re after as if it has already happened. Get the results in advance and practice until you are certain you will succeed. You are in control of how your day unfolds by training your brain what to notice, choosing how to feel and by deciding on which thoughts to focus on and actions to take. Practice each morning and then zoom out and let this habit bubble over into all areas of your life, love, and future.
Will you be a confident, clear, communicator in your upcoming call? Will you be patient and present with your team on the days project? Ask yourself, what matters most to me today and how will I show up? These questions can start to guide your practice but your success, fulfillment and happiness can only be defined, and created, by you. Just after reviewing your to do’s for the day, sit back, close your eyes and visualize everything you planned playing our perfectly. As clearly and specifically as you can generate the thoughts, feelings and emotions following a day of victory. Did you crush the speech or your workout? Did you stand up for yourself or your loved ones? Did you lead the team with excellence and empathy? How do you feel? What does it look like?
Habit 3b: After planning and prioritizing, spend 3 minutes mentally rehearsing your perfect day.
Remember that YOU are in control of how you start your day. You are responsible for creating your life. With some self-discipline, focused effort and willingness to step out of your comfort zone you will be well on your way to Mastering Your Morning. If you can manage this routine, you can master your life. Check back in a couple of weeks to learn how to prime your morning for success starting the night before.
Now let this routine join forces with Part 1. Right after Mindset 1 go to Mindset 1b and repeat the process through the whole morning routine until your morning looks like this: Gratitude, Meditation, Exercise, Mobility, Preplan and Prioritize, Envision the Perfect Day. Add and adjust as you consciously create but do not back down because of the moaning and whining your mind and body is sure to produce. Start each morning with grace and discipline and your life will start to evolve. As simple as it sounds this practice is just what you need to take control of the wheel and steer your positive personal change. Each morning is a fresh start. It will not be easy but it will be worth it. Are you up for the challenge?
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