"You've got to wake up every morning with determination if you're going to go to bed with satisfaction."
Like working out more, eating better or quitting that bad habit, we all know our lives could be healthier and more productive if we could only start our day earlier. Stop hitting the snooze. Get up when we planned to. And yet, how many of us are guilty of rolling over for “five more minutes”?
In their book Switch, Dan and Chip Heath talked about our rational brain (the one that sets the alarm at a certain time, with a plan) and our irrational brain (the one that hits the snooze 8 times). While the Heath brothers touched on “sleeping in” as a habit many people wanted to break, the main topic of that book was change in general. For those who want to go deeper into making their mornings all that they can be, I give you The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life Before 8am, a brand new book by bestselling author, Hal Elrod.
While Hal’s book is full of great tips and exercises to help you get out of bed in the morning, his overarching message is that more than tips or tricks, getting your day started on the right foot starts with creating a deeper why.
Getting Over the Hump
"Every day that you and I wake up, we face the same universal challenge. It's the challenge to overcome mediocrity and live to our full potential."
Think about it. If you wake up to 15 emails, with only enough time to shower, slam a coffee and head into your first meeting of the day, you’re already behind. Your schedule is too busy to allow you any time to catch up and, as such, you’re not really planning, proactively thinking, or working on the important (but not urgent) tasks that you wanted to. You spend your whole day just keeping your head above water, come home to dinner and then (in too many cases) crash on the couch and escape into a television induced coma; a much needed reprieve from the days demands. Head to bed. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Here’s the biggest challenge with getting up at the last minute: You’re automatically playing defense. Putting out fires. Responding. You’re not driving your own life, but are instead being driven by your life circumstances. Who wants to live their entire life like that; knowing that they lived their lives to satisfy outside demands, never living to their best? “Living a life of full potential”, as Hal puts it, is not about responding. It’s about actively choosing the direction of your life. It’s about being (and feeling) in control of your days. And it starts before 8am.
The Miracle Morning is, quite simply, about planning and living your life (goals, aspirations, exercise, mental and spiritual health) before you address your life situation. (Your current responsibilities, demands and activities.) Though he accounts for all lifestyles and schedules, Hal recommends taking 60 minutes, in the morning, on activities that bring peace and clarity to your life: Silence, Affirmations, Visualization, Exercise, Reading, Scribing (Journaling or writing in a diary). (He even came up with a handy acronym – Life S.A.V.E.R.S.)
He recommends the morning because the morning is a time when nothing has happened yet to ruin your day. It’s also a time of far fewer distractions.
Ok, sounds great in theory, but most people are shaking their heads thinking, “There’s no way. I’m already cramming 27 hours of stuff into 24 hours. How on earth could I get up an hour earlier than I already do?”
While thousands of people around the planet are already living (and documenting) their own Miracle Mornings – making it work – it is a valid question. “How can I build the habit of getting up an hour earlier every day?” It’s a question that Hal addresses fairly well, I think.
Mind Over Mattress
"...the problem is that when we hit the snooze button, we are telling our subconscious mind that it is okay to not follow through with our commitments and what we intend to do."
Let’s face it: the hardest part about getting up an hour earlier is the first five minutes. That moment in which—tucked into your warm bed—you make the choice as to whether you start your day… or hit the snooze “just one more time”. Think about it though—you set your alarm at a certain time for a reason. Commit to that reason and make the effort. Get vertical. Hal provides “Five simple, snooze-proof steps” to getting your day started on the right foot:
1. Set Your Intentions Before Bed (mentally commit to getting up when you planned to)
2. Move your Alarm Clock Across the Room (enforcing at least a little movement first thing)
3. Brush Your Teeth (motion and sensation help wake you up)
4. Drink a Full Glass of Water (get your metabolism going)
5. Get Dressed or Jump In the Shower (moving you one step further from bed)
It Gets Easier... I Promise
"The problem for most people is that they don’t realize that this seemingly unbearable first 10 days is only temporary."
While there’s a lot of debate around how long it takes to create a new habit, 30 days seems be safe by all research standards. What Hal reminds us is that there are actually three distinct phases to creating any new habit.
Phase One: Unbearable (Days 1-10)
This is when the new activity requires tremendous effort. You’re fighting existing habits—habits that have often been entrenched in “who you are” for years, sometimes decades. You’re fighting existing patterns and existing limiting beliefs. You need to keep pushing.
Phase Two: Uncomfortable (Days 11-20)
The habit starts to take hold, starts to get a little bit easier, but it’s still not natural. The biggest temptation at this level is to “reward yourself” by taking a break. Terrible idea. You’ve already made it through the hardest part (phase one), don’t backslide now. Why on earth would you want to go through that first phase again?
Phase Three: Unstoppable (Days 21-30)
Habit starts to feel natural. Your body and mind are adjusting to the new pattern – these last 10 days are important for entrenching that activity into “who you are”. Push through the final 10 days and the habit will cement itself in your life.
This was one of the biggest takeaways I gleaned from The Miracle Morning; an appreciation for the three distinct phases of habit change. It can be so daunting on day five to realize you still have 25 days to go. You’ve barely started. And yet, you’re actually already half way through the first phase. By reframing where we are on our growth journey, we can recommit our minds and bodies to pushing through. It’s not going to feel like this forever. In fact, it’s not even going to feel like this for the whole 30 days. Persevere.
I started this Actionable Summary by addressing the importance of defining a why to behaviour change. In this case we’re talking about getting up earlier in the morning, but I believe this Why is crucial for any proactive change we wish to make in our lives. What’s the end result that really matters to you? Write it down. Say it aloud. Really feel it. Changing our behaviours is hard. It requires deliberate action and willpower. If you’re looking for additional support to make it happen, The Miracle Morning provides some excellent tips on how to make it that little bit easier.