Nine out of 10 people I talk to don’t know what they want from life. They just let it happen without questioning it too much, often taking the path of least resistance. I was one of them. I didn’t know where I was going in life; I had vague goals, a poor work ethic and no clear vision. But then, I completely transformed my life by engineering a simple yet profound morning routine. Do you know what you want from your life?
The daily routine I will share in this article can be easily replicated and adjusted to take your life to the next level. Read on!
1. The importance of “me” time
I always wanted to read more, spend time learning things that mattered to me and simply have time where no one can tell me what to do and I can just focus on getting lost improving myself. It’s important to set a specific time for yourself. Whether you want to do yoga, stretch, read, paint, write, anything. You must block time where you have little to no distractions and can spend time on yourself guilt free. My decision was clear when I started writing my first book. My day would become so busy that I wouldn’t have the time nor the energy to sit down and write. I decided to wake up one hour earlier and write. Nothing more, nothing less. Some days I would write two sentences, other days I would easily get to 1,000 words. For the last two years I have dedicated three hours, from 5am to 8am to “me” time and I have grown enormously.
2. Prepare the night before
A successful morning starts the night before. Throughout the years I experimented with many things including reading before bed, drinking tea, taking a walk, showering, writing, meditating and fasting. What I found out is it doesn’t matter what you are doing the night before as long as you set clear intentions for the next day, acknowledge the present day and express gratitude in what happened. Reflect on your day by remembering what went well and what went wrong.
Action: Decide on your sleep schedule and commit. You may need to inform your family or partner about your new sleeping patterns.
3. Consistency beats ability
Showing up daily and performing consistently might not be sexy and won’t bring overnight results but it will definitely make you better. Here’s an article by James Clear on marginal gains that proves that improving just 1% every day will have a significant impact on your life in 365 days. Whether it’s fitness, finances, creativity or relationships, show up daily and improve just 1% to grow.
Action: Decide on what you want to improve this year and write it down. Every morning spend time practicing.
4. Develop your grand life vision
As I mentioned at the very beginning of this article, most people don’t know what they want from life. Vague goals like building a house, buying a car, marrying and having a good job are not really goals. It’s the way people live, these are more like needs. I was focused on needs as well until I started thinking what is really important to me.
To help you develop your grand life vision, ask yourself the following questions.
- What do I want to be remembered for?
- What gives me enormous satisfaction?
- How can I leave this world a better place?
For some people it’s music, for others it’s art. For me, it’s about mastering myself, learning new things and experimenting in life.
Action: Come up with a grand vision for your life. Remind yourself every morning why you woke up and why it matters. Visualize yourself getting closer to your goal.
5. Block distractions
In the morning your focus and energy is at its best. It’s when your mind is sharpest and capable of tackling hard tasks. But no matter how focused or trained you are, ignoring distractions takes its toll and eventually you will lose and give in. I’m talking about TV, notifications, messages and the Internet.
Find a place or better design a place where there are as few potential distractions as possible. Leave your laptop, smartphone and TV remote in another room. Close the doors and windows so no sounds can distract you. What I noticed is that the Internet can be a huge distraction for me, especially checking social media first thing in the morning. Now, I have my morning alarm on my wrist and I don’t need my phone near my bed. When I get up, I can’t just open my iPhone and start checking everything that happened in the world because it’s hard to reach. The list prepared the day before keeps me focused and I dive right into my morning routine.
Action: Think about what distracts you the most in the morning and come up with ways to eliminate these distractions. This will not be easy and will take a week or two to figure out how you can beat the distractions.
6. Read/listen/watch something uplifting
What works for me is to keep my schedule consistent and read every day for at least 30 minutes. It allows me to focus and forget myself while learning and gaining inspiration. Other times, when I travel early in the morning, I like to listen to podcasts about the things that matter to me. Whether it’s health, productivity, lifestyle design or business, I get inspired and pumped up hearing experts talk about these topics. Lastly, watching uplifting videos can fill you with positive energy in no time.
Back in 2015, I took an intense five-week training program for a half-marathon and had hard mornings when my legs and feet were sore, it was raining outside and I wouldn’t get excited about running 18 kilometers. Then, I would watch a motivational video on YouTube and become motivated in no time. My favorites are videos about great athletes like Lionel Messi, Novak Djokovic and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Action: Make a motivational playlist on YouTube and watch it every morning for inspiration.
Once you block physical and digital distractions the real challenge begins. Our minds are designed to seek dangers for survival and our monkey mind doesn’t like the present moment. That’s why it’s hard to block mental distractions. Thoughts about the past and the future make us worry. Worries become anxiety and we can no longer relax, no matter how relaxing the environment is. For that reason, I started doing mental fitness.
Three years ago I discovered meditation. I was a skeptic and had to try it many times to feel the benefits of slowing down and observing my mind. It’s not only beneficial for your mind but it has a lot of health benefits. Regular meditation practice is proven to reduce blood pressure and lower cortisol, the stress hormone levels, which in turn helps to increase focus and make you happier.
Other exercises to sharpen your mind I recommend are journaling and expressing gratitude. It will force you to observe what is going on in your head and will allow you to understand yourself better.
Finally, stretching and doing yoga can enormously improve your health while sharpening your mind through mindful breathing exercises. The key here is not to overdo it. If your “me” time allows you just one hour every morning, spend five to ten minutes sharpening your mind.
Action: Decide how you will sharpen your mind and prepare the night before. Whether it’s a timer for meditation, a notebook and pen for journaling or a yoga mat for stretching.
8. Step out of your exercise comfort zone
Finally, every morning I challenge myself through exercise. While traveling I don’t always have the luxury of hitting the gym and do a short HIIT session or use a fitness app. Exercise is extremely important as it contributes to my discipline, confidence and performance. If I show up daily and push myself to become a better person, I can demand from my body to perform at a higher level and make me more productive, focused and healthier. I know not everyone is lucky enough to be able to hit the gym every day but there are tons of other possibilities. Go for a run, do bodyweight exercises, challenge yourself with the HIIT session. Don’t just pity yourself and give in to an excuse that there is nothing you can do to make your body stronger.
I noticed that exercise has become one of my keystone habits that push me out of my comfort zone every single day, building up stronger will and self-discipline.
Action: Decide how you will push yourself out of your comfort zone. Make it easy to start. Find a suitable training program, prepare your clothes the night before and find an accountability partner.