Mornings. Because in life, you can’t have it all.
Are can you? If you’re like me, you may feel the most energetic and inspired in the morning. But no matter how you feel, you have to admit one thing: it’s a new day. A new day where you can reinvent yourself, become a better you. Unless you’re perfect, and in that case, kudos to you!
In his book The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM), Hal Elrod is all about success. According to him, the only way to success is through personal development. I couldn’t agree more on this. Once you know yourself, and know what you want, then you’re already among the happy few. Not chasing someone else’s dreams, seeing clearly where you’re heading, is happiness. Reaching your goals isn’t sustainable happiness. That will give you a boost, for sure, euphoria probably, but it won’t last. Just like some psychoactive drugs. Without the grinding – or so I heard. What makes a happy life is your drive for improvement. Reached a goal? Good, how can you make it harder now? Seek for the next challenge. The next step. And get back at it. If you can’t find any, you can’t be happy for long. As humans, we thrive through challenges, through pain. The comfort zone is a dead end, you want to reach beyond it. Without going too far though. Too much pain isn’t good either, and would only lead to discouragement. It’s all about moving the needle to find the right balance.
So what’s the recipe for a miracle morning according to Hal?
It’s life SAVERS.
And before you run to your closest CVS to get a pack of mints, let me clarify: life S.A.V.E.R.S. is an acronym, a 6-step ritual of ten minutes each that you would follow one hour before your usual wake up time.
Or meditation. Focus on your breath, accept without judging yourself that your mind will be wandering and thoughts will come at you. But always get back your breath. Feel the air flowing through your body.
That’s the step where you look like a wierdo. Say out loud your positive values, like “I am confident”, “I am smart”, “I am creative”. Whatever works for you. Pro tip: if you’re in a new relationship, I suggest you do this exercise by writing. It works too, and it will probably save you from having to install Tinder again.
You visualize yourself as if you already obtained what you’re after in life. Try to picture every bit of it. Picture how it would feel to live a day as if you reached your goal of the moment. Picture your relationships to others, see how it would feel to look at yourself in the mirror. Some people apparently use a vision board, some sort of collage of pictures that would help project yourself in that state. My office looked like a pre-teen girl’s bedroom, so I took it off the wall.
There are plenty of 10-min routines that will get your heart pumping for sure. Now, I’m not saying that if one of your goals is to get a great physique, you can achieve that in only 10 minutes a day. You’ll have to suffer a little bit more than the common mortal.
If you want to be part of the 1%, you’ll have to do things differently from the 99%.
And that involves a strict diet and painful workout routines. But here, this step is not about getting ripped, it’s about waking up your body and energy levels.
You’d be surprised how much you can actually read in 10 minutes, especially if you apply speed reading techniques the right way. Limiting yourself to only 10 minutes has a lot of benefits. First, according to the Parkinson’s law, work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. So set a goal (number of pages, chapters, etc.) and stick to it. Second, it will make you read what you want to read, and not random articles that come to you. When you read with a purpose in mind, your brain subconsciously search for the information you’re after, and your reading is much more efficient.
The concept of morning pages is not new either, but damn, it truly feels good. Writing is a way of dumping your thoughts out of your brain and onto a piece of paper of digital file. It feels like a morning cleanse, some kind of brain laxative if you will. Oh, and by the way, you don’t need to feel “inspired” to start writing. Inspiration is overrated. Just write. Write your thoughts. Write exactly what comes to your mind right now. Stuck with the same thought? Write it over and over again. Thinking that you have no idea? Just write “I don’t know what to write right now. What could I write?…” Trust me, ideas and words will come eventually. Just give it a chance, and you’ll see.
The author also talks about habit forming. It supposedly takes 21 days to form a new habit, but to be on the safe side, Hal challenges you for 30 days. This is how you will feel:
- Day 1 – 10: it’s unbearable. You’re tired, bored, you don’t even know or remember why you started this new routine in the first place.
- Day 11-20: it’s uncomfortable. You start getting used to it, but don’t necessarily like it. The pain is decreasing though.
- Day 21-30: it’s unstoppable. After 3 weeks of streak, you just can’t stop, you’d feel guilty if you did. Guess what: you’ve just formed a new habit.
The author makes a point that your level of energy doesn’t really depend on the number of hours you slept, but mostly on the state of mind you’ll be when you go to bed the night before. Even if you will only get 4 hours of sleep, going to bed thinking that you will wake up in great shape will work. Conversely, thinking you’ll be tired will make you tired. As Henry Ford put it:
Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.
As a fitness practitioner, I would temper this. Sleep is important. Sleep is not an unproductive state, on the contrary. Sleep is where you reap the rewards of your daily efforts. Sleep is where the body grows after a hard training. Sleep is where memory sticks after studying. Sleep is where new ideas form after brainstorming. Now, how long you should sleep is different from how much sleep you could get away with. I know that my ideal sleep time is about 8 hours. Can I function on 4 hours of sleep? Totally. But you – meaning your mind and body – won’t grow in ideal conditions. Remember, sleep is productive.
I personally tweak this routine:
- Meditation + Visualization: 10 minutes
- Top 3 goals of the day: 10 minutes
- Writing: at least 10 minutes with morning pages, and way more if need be when I’m preparing a blog post for instance.
I tend to read at night, and sleep on ideas I’ve learnt. I try to avoid binge watching tv shows, and save a few hours a day like this. As for exercise, I hit the gym 3 to 4 times a week and always push myself to my limits.
No routine should be the same for everyone, but it’s fundamental to develop one. Self discipline is key to success. No structure and no self-control lead to a lack of willpower. Set some challenges for yourself, and stick to them. Consistency is key.