Back in my corporate days I used to wake up
drag myself out of bed at 5am to get a workout in before going to work at 7:30am (that was our start time, and not a minute later was allowed). Those early mornings felt brutal at times, even when it became a regular part of my routine.
What I learned from that time period is that unless you’re a morning person, waking up at 5am for anything will always suck, but if you’re truly committed to finding more balance and thriving in your life, you can change your habits to make anything possible.
Your Habits Are Your Success Habits
Ask any mega successful person about their morning routine and you’ll find a lot of similarities:
- Early mornings
- Meditation/prayer/mental clarity time
- A shot of apple cider vinegar*
*Just kidding. That’s gross, but wouldn’t be surprised if someone does this
What they don’t do is check their phone, look at emails, hit the snooze button 100 times, chug a beer, or complain about how busy the day will be or how annoying their boss is.Mega successful people cherish, protect, and covet the first minutes of the day, so shouldn't we attempt the same for ourselves? These people will tell you that in addition to hard work and tenacity, it’s their morning habits that have helped them create success in several aspects of their life, including their health and fitness.
The reason I point this out about rich and successful people is because it demonstrates a few things:
1.) There is absolutely zero excuse not to change your habits. If the busiest person in the world can devote five minutes in the morning to one of the bullet points above, then the average Jane can make a little time for exercise in her day.
2.) Success in any area of your life, not just monetary, starts with your habits. It’s about taking control of the smallest behaviors in order to optimize your time, health, mindset, and everything in between.
Habits You Can Control
I think a lot about my habits, especially in my morning routine because I’ve witnessed the difference it has made in my life.
After college, morning exercise was a regular thing for me, mainly because I love all things fitness and wanted to fit in as much exercise into my day as possible (yup, I was crazy). It was the only thing about my morning routine that I intentionally thought of and controlled, not realizing that I could change a lot more about my life if I focused on a few more morning habits.
Without an intentional morning routine, I lived with these constant, reoccurring, fearful thoughts:
I was born into these unfortunate circumstances
Everything I want in my life will be really hard to get
Success is an uphill battle
Work is a unfulfilling grind
What does s/he have that I don’t? Why does life come so easy for her/him and not me?
Fear, struggle, and misery was my life’s narrative for 25 years. I had no idea that I could change that narrative until I started to pay attention to my morning habits, and once I did I found my life more fulfilling, more balanced, and I got a lot healthier in the process.
My Most Life-Changing Morning Habits
I’m going to break down each of the morning habits that have helped me make massive shifts in my life, including those that have helped change my mindset, my fitness, and led to more balance. You don’t have to apply all of them at once, but I do want you to reflect on your own routine to see how you can improve or change it for the better based on these points.
Early to Rise
Like I said, I’m not a morning person but waking up consistently around 6-6:30am is the first key to unlocking my health and finding more balance. Sometimes I fall out of this habit and have to ‘reset’ my brain and internal clock to get me going. This usually takes about 1.5 weeks to get my body to sync up with this routine.
Unless you’re a brand new mom or work night shifts, this success habit is 100% doable and realistic for you, but you have to commit to keeping it consistent for the first couple of weeks and give your body some time to adjust. That means, going to bed around the same time each night, turning off electronics at least an hour before you go to bed, and finding ways to get better quality sleep.
For me, reading before bed, listening to soothing music, and drinking tea really helps me fall asleep faster. If I’m still struggling to fall asleep, I mediate or read some more to calm my brain and I make the bedroom as dark as possible.
Meditation and Journaling
I’m really big on meditation and journaling because that’s what really helps me de-stress and clear my head. I try to always do this in the morning if I don’t have a client first-thing (let’s be real, if I have a 6:30 am client that lives 45 minutes away, I’m not going to meditate and write at 5am) and sometimes I prefer to do this at night. When you do it isn’t as big of a deal. However, when it came to changing my mental narrative doing this for several mornings (and nights) really helped whip my brain and thoughts into shape.
My morning journaling routine happens right after meditation, and can change from day to day, but normally I’m re-writing my goals or vision statement, writing out a few affirmations I’m focused on (this comes back to changing that mental narrative), or doing a brain dump of thoughts and ideas on paper. There really is not wrong way to do it, but believe me when I say, I always feel ‘off’ when I skip this.
Coffee and reading
One of my favorite morning habits is reading and sipping my coffee while in bed. Now, this is more of a leisure morning activity than a daily habit but on weekends or a morning that I have off from training a client, this really helps set the tone for my day.
First of all, coffee is my favorite beverage ever. Second, what I read has a huge impact on my day and this is an important detail to pay attention to.
If you want to read first thing in the morning, make it something positive, motivating, or inspiring. Not an email, not a text, and certainly not the news. Think about how you want to feel throughout the day and read something that will drive that feeling home for you.
Personally, I like to pick up a text from some personal development or spiritual book as it often reminds me to choose positive, uplifting thoughts, or it holds a lesson I need to revisit. It doesn’t matter what you choose to read or for how long, but if you can feed your mind with something positive first thing in the day, do that. Don’t fill your head and energy with fake news, Trump news, bad news, or an email from work.
Writing Down Goals, Affirmation, or To-dos
You know what’s overwhelming? To-do lists a mile a long.
Want to know what’s even more overwhelming and ineffective? Thinking you can do everything on that list in one day.
This is why jotting down goals, affirmations and to-dos has become a part of my morning ritual. Sometimes, this goes well with my journaling habit, but other times it’s the only thing I write down.
Look, busy days happen no matter what profession you’re in, and I’ve seen it create unnecessary stress and anxiety in people because they haven’t figured out a manageable way to thrive under this type of pressure and they allow their to-do list to control them.
Don’t let this happen to you!
Remember that you are in charge of how you feel throughout the day so if you are under a lot of stress or pressure and there seems to be too much to do, make time first thing in the morning to write everything that’s on your mental to-do list as well as your goal(s) for the day/week/quarter/month (however you like to set that up).
Here’s what I do when I start to feel overwhelmed with busy-ness:
- During my jorurnaling time, I quickly jot down my goals for the day and/or quarter.
- Write out everything that’s swirling in my brain to-do-wise: Creating content, calling the doctor, taking dog to the park, business development, answering that email, exercise, etc.
- Re-read the list and cross out anything that isn’t time-sensitive or tied directly to my goal(s). Walking the dog is necessary but I don’t have to take him to the park to get exercise, so that goes out the window. Calling the doctor can wait a day; I might make my workout shorter or go to a Pilates class instead. Prune the to-do list and focus on those important things first.
- Do the hardest thing first, take a break (i.e. walk the dog), and then go back and continue working on my much shorter to-do list.
Without this morning habit of really looking at what needs to happen that day, I start to head into the downward spiral of stress and anxiety and end up getting nothing done anyway.
As for affirmations, this is something fairly new to my morning behavior and so far I’m into it. Every once in a while I get really focused on a certain aspect of my life and I jot down affirmations to reinforce the new belief/behavior/concept/idea into my head.
For example, if I’m focused on prioritizing my health I will jot down a few affirmations on notecards or a whiteboard that reinforce the habit I’m trying to create and how I want to feel, like:
I am energized, clear-headed and focused.
My body is strong, healthy, and capable of amazing feats of strength.
I take care of my body and look and feel amazing as a result.
This might come across as woo-woo to many of you but I like to think of this affirmation exercise as way of re-wiring the brain.
You might have a great workout routine down, but if you’re doing it while hating yourself in the process then it’s not much help in the long-run. Affirmations help affirm new belief systems into our brains, and it’s been especially helpful in changing my fearful, negative thought patterns into better ones.
I leave exercise last because while it can be a great way to start your day, I understand this doesn’t always work with people’s schedules.
Morning exercise used to be a part of my morning routine and while it was tough to get motivated for the gym so early, I loved how it made me feel the rest of the day. Just imagine doing the hardest thing possible first thing in the morning, getting it out of the way, and accomplishing something before most people have even had their breakfast! There is a lot of joy and sense of achievement that comes with putting exercise first thing in the morning.
If a workout routine can’t fit into your morning, that’s fine. Just put in some type of movement into your morning routine, like walking the dog, getting out in nature, or some light stretching at home. It’s a much gentler way to get the body to wake up than jolting your brain awake with shots of caffeine.
Allow Your Habits to Evolve With You
Remember how I diligently trained every morning at 5:30am?
Well, these days my priorities and lifestyle have changed, which means morning exercise is no longer a part of my morning routine. Fitness is still important for me to feel balanced, energized, and healthy, but it didn’t kill me to move it to the afternoons.
Give yourself permission to evolve and change your habits. Yes, habits are meant to stick around long-term, but once it’s served its purpose, there’s no law that says you can’t ditch it, alter it, or move it to a different time of day.
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