A tale of two mornings....
The alarm rings. You have exactly seventy-five minutes to be out the door. After relinquishing fifteen of those to “snooze” periods and a few minutes on your phone (e.g. checking email, Facebook), you’re finally out of bed. You put together coffee, feed the dog and let her outside, get the kids up, and help everyone grab something to eat. Within ten minutes, the clamor and chaos of the morning rush has taken over your thinking – in addition to the nagging reminder that you still have a few emails to send out before the first meeting. So much for easing into the day… Even with the tag team approach made possible by your partner, it’s still a major production to hit the shower and get ready. There are bags to be packed, bills or homework to be gathered and final goodbyes to be said as everyone heads out the door. When you get to work, it’s a dash to fit in several tasks before 9:00 am. Somehow you keep waiting for a quiet moment to pull your thoughts together, to breathe and catch up with yourself; but the chance keeps further distancing itself. "Later," you say. "At lunch? After work? At night? Wait a second… I forgot my lunch again, didn’t I?"
Now let’s look at a better way.
Second scenario… The alarm rings. This time you have two hours and 30 minutes. No snooze at this hour. Before anyone else is up, you grab your ready-made coffee (gotta love pre-programming options) and slip quietly into a remote corner of the house where everything you need is already there. Your phone is off limits except for music to help wake you up. After reading or journaling for a few minutes, you do some meditation and some light yoga or dynamic stretching perhaps, and get ready for your a.m. workout. You enjoy the quiet around you and the focus on your movements. As you take a few minutes afterward, you write out your master list for the day. Following a hot shower, you’re calm and ready to organize and conquer the rest of your day.
Moral of the story here: drive your day, or your day will drive you. Direct, or you’ll be put in a constant position to react.
While few, if any of us get to choose everything that will happen in our days, the morning, in particular, has the power to determine who/what will be leading the way. It also determines how much we give to our own interests versus simply responding to others’ as the day progresses. As psychologist Roy F. Baumeister suggests in his book, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, our willpower is greatest in the morning – before we’ve had to fend off the many issues and choices that come our way in a day. In other words, if you struggle to keep a given commitment to yourself/your well-being, you’ll likely be more successful making it part of your morning routine as opposed to holding off until later in the day. There are far too many excuses that will present themselves throughout the day, causing you to keep pushing those "commitments" to the back burner.
From a physiological standpoint, too, the morning hours offer some extra benefits. There’s the advantage of the natural a.m. cortisol surge. That means extra energy – to offer the day’s workout or to tackle the most challenging tasks. Working out in a fasted state, research shows, offers better benefits for fat burning and insulin sensitivity. How many of us postpone our exercise and certain responsibilities as long as we can – only to face them during our least energetic and driven hours of the day? By that point, it takes seemingly ten times the physical and mental effort to make ourselves follow through (e.g. the thousand pound workout bag).
What’s more? You’ll be more invested in making healthier choices throughout the day if you’re already on a roll with an a.m. workout, meditation time and/or other positive behaviors. You’ve already got some skin in the game for living healthily that day. You also won’t be subject to that nagging sense of restlessness that can dog us all day. Our bodies are waiting to move and what punishment to make them sit at a desk for eight hours first. Our minds, too.
Why should we put off what we want in our day? Why should we come last and not first? It may come off as promoting a selfish revolution, but the solid fact is, life works better for everyone when our needs are taken care of. We work harder. We play better with others. We eat less crap and can be healthier for it. Obviously, exercise is what comes to mind with my life, and most of yours, but I'm not limiting the morning routine to that. Perhaps it's a few minutes of quiet time to enjoy your morning coffee. Sitting alone to read or journal, morning stretching, yoga, or meditation and devotion time. What would it mean for the rest of your life if you devoted a morning routine to your own interests? How would your relationships change if you began your day in ways that brought you joy and health? How would it impact your attitude at work if you started your job already having a solid hour of time invested in yourself?
When you lead with your own peace and well-being, much more is possible. Something essential changes when you begin directing your day rather than responding to it. However we choose to design our morning routine (as long as it truly feeds our needs – and more than just the routine check-offs), we stake our claim on the day before anything/anyone else can. Our actions – and the pattern of action over time – can effect a powerful shift in our personal sense of self-efficacy and fulfillment.
Are you thinking about your morning routine yet?? Start brainstorming ideas. What can you change about your routine to drive your day?
Drive your day, or your day will drive you. Direct, or you’ll be put in a constant position to react. Rise and Shine... welcome to the grind!
References: Roy F. Baumeister; Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength
By Coach Carla Beam