How Do You Start Your Day?

Do you enjoy waking up each morning? How eager are you to start your days? What’s your favorite part of your alarm clock? Is it the snooze button? Are there some days that are easier to get up than others? Is there a pattern to those days where it’s easier to get up? Is it because you got a great sleep or because you’re looking very much forward to doing something that day or something else? A US fitness chain, Equinox, points out in a slogan, “Morning people aren’t born, they’re made.” Much of our mornings is our choice. We can start with realizing and accepting that time is ticking whether we’re paying attention or not. We can either be proactive or passive. As Jim Rohn observed, “Either you run the day or the day runs you.” This starts from the moment we begin our mornings. How do you spend the first minutes of each day? How about the first hours?

Is it easier to get out of bed on your birthday, Christmas morning, or on a travel day for your dream vacation then to get up to go to work? As Amy Schmittauer Lanino writes in Good Morning, Good Life, “Having something to look forward to is the key to having an exciting morning. What do you want to do with your morning? What do you want to have happen in your life?” Those with purposeful plans lead their lives and enter their days with enthusiasm. Colorfully expressed the writer Pema Chodron observes, “It’s like waking up on a cold, snowy day in a mountain cabin ready to go for a walk but knowing that first you have to get out of bed and make a fire. You’d rather stay in that cozy bed, but you jump out and make the fire because the brightness of the day in front of you is bigger than staying in bed.”

Mornings are magnets that pull people from their beds towards their goals. The alternative is shown by those that are passive participants in their own lives who aren’t moving towards things instead craving the comfort of their comforter. Legendary US College football coach, Lou Holtz, offers, “If you’re bored with life—you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things—you don’t have enough goals.” The folk wisdom of “rise and shine” reminds us that if you plan on shining, you’ve got to first rise. Before you can succeed you’ve got to show up. Before you show up, you’ve got to get up. Or, as J.M. Power said, “If you want to make your dreams come true, the first thing you have to do is wake up.” This all implies that you’ve got dreams, goals, and something towards which to look forward. This is the key to getting a better start. When you’re looking forward to play in your day, the morning is much more welcome.

Investment legend, Dan Montano is credited with regularly offering the African proverb, “Every morning in the Savannah a lion wakes up. It knows it will have to run faster than the slowest gazelle or it won’t eat that day. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or the gazelle: When the sun comes up, you’d better be running.” Too many of us are getting up like the gazelle and getting going out of fear. We’re being prodded and grudgingly get out of bed for fear of what happens if we stay under the covers. Whereas, the lions and leading by what’s motivating them. Running to is easier to do. Those with goals are looking forward to lean in to their mornings.

Mornings aren’t a competition. The winner isn’t the first horse out of the barn. It’s not about beating the sun up. Making mornings matter is about getting the most out of the start of your day, whatever time that may be. The suggestion is that when we’re fresh from a night of rest, our capacities are strongest. This is the time that any effort will pay off the most. To misappropriate the Buddhist idea of “first thought, best thought,” consider that most of us are mentally sharpest earlier in the day. We’re capable of deeper thinking in the first hours of our days. Our thinking first thing is likely to be some of our day’s best thinking. Ali Abdaal, recounting advice from a Med-school professor offered in a tweet, “An hour before 9 is worth two after 5.” That is, the energy and attention we have in our first few hours is far better than that available to us later in the day. Making our mornings matter is about adopting advice Kevin Kelly offers in Excellent Advice for Living, “Figure out what time of day you are most productive and protect that time period.”

Our mornings matter because that’s when we’re at our best, when we’re freshest. What should we be doing with our start? Consider MIG or Move, Improve, and Groove.

Moving is about some type of exercise to help wake you up and get going. A breathing exercise, a short walk around your house or within the house, a set of push ups and situps, or a more detailed trip to the gym, all serve to get your blood flowing and you going.

Improving is about spending a little time working on getting better at some facet of your life. Too many of us reach for our phones and consume first thing. We’re catching up on social media or reading news headlines. None of this makes us better in any way. Are you in some way constructive? Are you building yourself, your health, your learning? Are you building your wealth by working or studying your investments? Can you create something instead of consuming? Getting something accomplished early in our day propels. It’s fun to do well. We begin to look forward to continuing the trend and look for the next task to conquer. This is the wisdom behind the encouragement to make your bed. A sense of accomplishment even for a small task whets our appetite for more.

Groove is about taking a moment to pat yourself on the back and celebrate the start of your day. Whether it is savoring a sip of coffee, soaking in the morning sunshine, enjoying a view from your back deck, or having a conversation with someone in your household, taking a few minutes to do something pleasurable offers an encouraging start to your day.

Incorporating movement, improvement, and something fun into the start of your day will help instill the power of mornings for you. Perhaps, you can find something that you can do as you start your days that covers more than one of these three components. Some will find pleasure and improvement in their exercise regimen. They are killing three birds with one stone.

You can train your brain by treating every day the same. When you get up at the same time day after day, you ingrain this rhythm into your internal clock. An alarm clock becomes more like a backup system. Your AMs become AutoMatic. Consider challenging yourself to try getting up at the same time every day for a month to see how you manage. Alternately, consider a challenge of not touching the snooze button for a month. When your alarm goes, you get up and go. Make your mornings matter with MIG and move, improve, and groove.