There has been a lot of buzz lately around morning rituals. Leaders from all sectors are quick to attribute their success to the development of a specific set of positive daily habits. The thinking goes that by purposefully implementing a consistent routine of deliberate actions to kick off your morning, you can dictate the tone and direction of your day rather than being influenced by the prevailing winds.
There was a time when mornings and I didn’t always get along. I was well versed in long college nights and became a master at working my class schedule around late morning start times. Early, constructive mornings were not even on my radar at the time. It took some doing, many years, and a lot of discipline, but now I recognize the importance of a little bit of structured time to build the day upon.
If your goal is to improve some aspect of your life, be it health and fitness, relationships, spirituality, or finances, how you start your day just might be the biggest determining factor.
Whether you call it a routine, a ritual, or a habit, I’m betting your morning already looks pretty much the same day to day. Get up, make your way to the kitchen to put on a pot of coffee or tea. Make a quick breakfast. Jump in the shower. Check your email. Get the kids ready for school. Out the door, into the car, and off to work you go. Or something along those lines.
The point is, you’re already engaged in a ritual. You just might not realize it. So while change might seem daunting, it becomes a little less intimidating when you understand that an entire overhaul of your daily pattern is not required. In fact, massive change is often the result of just a few minor tweaks to your current habits.
So, where to start? Well, that depends on where you want to go. A morning ritual is a very individual thing. The time you spend alone in the morning can often come to define who you are. So the routine you ultimately settle on will most likely be built on personal trial and error.
But one commonality is that an effective ritual should be a fluid one. As you grow, it will most likely be necessary to change or expand your morning habits accordingly. Be open to this.
The most powerful ritual is the one that you’ve spent time developing and the one that you are most likely to actually stick with. Therefore, it would be ineffective for me to create a routine for you. But I would like to offer the following suggestions to help get you going.
Start your day earlier.
Nothing derails your day quicker than starting behind schedule. You’ll never get ahead if you’re constantly running to catch up.
How much more time you’ll require in the morning depends on the routine you settle on, but typically anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour is sufficient. Remember, you probably already have a loose morning routine going, so a good start might be to simply layer a new habit on top of what you’re currently doing. For example, you might listen to a brief educational or inspirational podcast while getting your breakfast together.
If you’re not thrilled about the idea of getting up a little earlier in the morning, I recommend aiming for just 15 minutes. Don’t worry about implementing any other change early on. Just wake up earlier and go about your normal routine. In a couple weeks, as you grow accustomed to your new wake time, you’ll be ready to fill that 15 minutes with productivity.
Focus on thankfulness.
The morning ritual has gained a reputation for helping you get what you want. So it becomes easy to focus on all the great changes you are about to implement, and all the exciting new things you plan to draw into your life.
But concentrating all your focus on what’s coming tends to make you lose sight of what you already have. Are you in relatively good health? Do you have a family? Do you have a roof over your head? Do you have running water and food on your table? As bad as you think you have it at times, somebody is always worse off than you.
Take a few minutes each morning to express gratitude for all that you have, no matter how little. Doing so with consistency can really work to change your frame of reference and help you see the events of your day in a whole new light.
Move your body
There’s arguably no more important addition to your morning routine that to engage in some form of physical exercise. Getting your body active early in the morning can help to shake off the cobwebs of sleep, spark your creativity, and build momentum for the rest of your day. Plus, it’s easy to incorporate other activities while you are exercising, such as practicing thankfulness or mentally reaffirming your day’s obligations.
A morning walk will do, but as you grow more comfortable with early morning activity try upping the intensity with some resistance training as well.
Fill your tank with high-test fuel
One of the main benefits of a morning ritual is to gain positive influence over the rest of your day. But it’s almost impossible to win the day when you’re crashing mid-morning.
If you’re used to fueling up on sugar in the morning, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Sugary cereals, donuts, toaster pastries, syrupy waffles, fruit juices, etc. can all give you a quick lift, but they’ll just as quickly send you crashing back down. And while we’re on the subject of sugar, check the labels on your yogurt, granola, breakfast bars, and meal replacement shakes. Healthy marketing doesn’t always make for a healthy product.
Instead, start your day with some quality proteins and fats. An omelet loaded with fresh veggies and cooked in olive oil or coconut oil is a great option. But don’t be afraid to eat more hearty proteins for breakfast. Properly sourced chicken, beef, and salmon are great breakfast items. Add some avocado and a generous portion of greens and you’ll be good to go until lunch. If you currently can’t go more than three hours without an overwhelming need to eat, it’s time to revamp your diet.
Have a game plan
Have you ever gone gift shopping for someone for whom you have no idea what to buy? It’s torture. You end up wandering aimlessly through store after store hoping for inspiration to strike. It rarely does.
A day without direction ultimately lacks purpose. I’m not suggesting that every single minute of your day has to be scheduled. After all, there is something to be said for spontaneity. However, if change and advancement is the goal, you need a road map to help you navigate your way.
Your daily plan might be as simple as a to-do list prioritized from the most important task to the least. If you’re working toward a specific goal, what items need to be accomplished in a given day to keep you on pace for your deadline? Are there calls that you need to make? Do you need to budget more time for family?
Planning can take some time, so ideally your schedule would be roughed in over the weekend and then honed on a nightly basis, leaving the morning for nothing more than review. If you try to plan your day that same morning, you’ll consume your whole morning ritual working to lay out your schedule.
Remember, a morning ritual doesn’t need to be complicated or intricate. In fact, the most effective ones tend to be the simplest. The point is to engage in some type of focused, purposeful activity to start your day. It takes a little bit of work to get a practiced routine up an running. But get into the habit of doing so with consistency, and you just might be surprised where it can take you.