Have you ever thought about how you start your day? Not just, what time of day you need to wake up to get ready in time, to be out the door and where you need to be on time; But actually started your day with intention? Imagine if you started your day with clear purpose, intention, how this could set you up for success for the entire day. I firmly believe, how you start and end your day, either positively or negatively influence everything in between. I’ve gathered information of how some of the most successful people around start their day, and have implemented their routines into my own.
Wake up early; This is especially true if you have children. In Discipline Equals Freedom, Jocko Willink discusses the importance of waking before the enemy. In his career in special forces, he learned to wake before the enemy, to train harder, to work harder, to ensure victory. This principle isn’t just for a military environment. This concept is, and should be applied to everyone. I am not naturally a morning person, training myself to wake early has not been easy. But what I have found, is I am much more productive and happier, if I wake early. If I wake before my children, and start my day on my own terms, it changes my mindset entirely. Before my children rise, and before the sun rise, I get to start my day wit ha sense of accomplishment. I get to start my day with a couple of coffee that is still warm, in the tranquility of my own thoughts.
After you wake up, make you bed. I know, I sound like your mother did all those years ago, but it’s not just me. In 2014, Admiral William H. McRaven addressed the University of Texas during their graduation ceremony, in a commencement speech which has since gone viral. If you haven’t watched it, you should and can do so here. Essentially, it boils down to starting your day with purpose, starting your day with a sense of accomplishment, starting your day with a win. When I make my bed every morning, I know I will at least accomplish one task on my to-do list. Each time I walk through my room, I am a little bit happier, because it looks better and I feel better.
Although our first instinct after waking up, especially if it is early is to reach for sweet, sweet roasted bean water, Aubrey Marcus in Own the Day Own Your Life, insists upon starting your day with a drink of warm, salted-lemon water. Coffee is naturally dehydrating, and after a long night’s sleep your body needs and craves water to help restore and replenish electrolytes. Salted lemon water also helps to slow the fast acting effects of caffeine and reduce dehydration. His “morning mineral cocktail” helps prime the body for the day to come, because we all know that when we physically feel healthy we are more able to live optimally. So, before you pour that cup of coffee, sprinkle some Himalayan Pink Salt and lemon in your water, and drink up!
You woke up early, you’re feeling dehydrated, you’ve accomplished one task before the sun is up, now what? Exercise your mind and body. There are a couple of ways in which to do this, and it really boils down to personal preference and priority. For some, exercising your mind may be meditation. Apps like Headspace make learning to meditate easy, as they are guided and start out slow to help you develop the skill and habit of meditation. Meditation is a skill which needs to be practiced in order to be successful, as learning to clear your mind and focus is not easy for many. Other ways to exercise your mind in the mornings are reading and writing. I love to start my day with reading, and doing it first thing in the morning, actually allows me the time and space to read without interruption, aka without the distraction of my kiddos. Some may choose to do Bible Study in the morning, but really you just need to find something that helps expand your mind, and even your heart.
Next, physical activity. This step doesn’t always happen immediately after my reading, but you need to gt your body moving! For some, this could be a run or cycling, for others, this could be yoga or stretching, you want to get your blood flowing and help create that positive physical energy which will keep you moving throughout the day. On days where I wake up groggy, and the thought of exercising first thing in the morning, just doesn’t sound like it can happen, I may lay on my acupressure mat (Bed of Nails, recommended in Tools of Titans) and just do some stretches while I read or meditate, postponing my workout until I feel more refreshed; Other days, I may hop right into my workout. It’s about listening to your body.
Another form of mentally priming your mind for the day ahead is to practice gratitude. I have discussed the 5 Minute Journal previously, but I can’t help but stress the importance of implementing gratitude into your morning routine, as well as throughout your day. Gratitude and anxiety cannot simultaneously exist; therefore if your heart and mind are filled with gratitude, it’s much harder to feel stressed and anxious about the happenings in your day. I’m not saying that gratitude will completely make all your problems go away, by sticking your head in the sand and pretending everything is positive; but it will help shift your perspective. The optimism created by focusing on everything you have to be grateful for, will help you focus your intention on the positives in your life, not only the negatives. If I wake up and find three things I am grateful for, three things I will do to make the day great, I am priming my mind to do those. I am setting myself to live optimally, to increase my happiness.
And finally, it’s time to expose yourself to cold. Last week I discussed the physical and mental benefits of cold exposure, and now it’s time to hop in the shower and turn that knob to cold. It may be shocking, and at first you may think that this is the exact opposite way you want to start your morning, by shocking your body. But give it a try for one week, and I believe you will start to feel the benefits. You will feel more mentally strong, because you can do hard things, even when you don’t want to; And, you will feel physically strong, because it’s going to get your blood pumping and help prepare you for your awesome day ahead.
Some of these techniques may not sound like you cup of tea, or cup of salted lemon water, but give them a try! Try implementing just a few, or plan to try all them and see how you feel. My hope, is that you will try them all, and add some of your own that work for you. When we start our day with intention, we live a life of intention; We live a life we created.