A rushed morning
Rushing through the door in the morning, makeup half done, lunch bag in hand, and kid in tow, you make a dash to the car and start driving only to realize that you left your computer in your home office. You turn around and start driving back home to pick it up, while your child in the back seat complains about how she will be late for school ‘again’. Sounds familiar?
Let’s take this catastrophic day further – you surmount all the challenges and get to work, albeit 30 minutes late to find your boss fuming. You are late for a meeting that you scheduled, with a very important client and thirty people from your own company! Luckily your colleague, Mary, came to the rescue and now she is one step closer to that promotion you have been working for.
Later that day, you work hard to make in quantity, where your work lacks in quality. Coming home late in the evening, you pick up another cheap and quick meal on the way home. At home, you find your kids have eaten, finished homework, and wound down, ready to call it a night. All thanks to your husband who got out of work early yet again. ‘You owe me one’, he says as you sigh in resignation. You crawl into bed, tired, unfulfilled and dissatisfied. Tomorrow you will launch another version of this same story. This story has been the narrative of your life for a while now.
Where it all began
If you trace the chronology of events in most of the narratives, you will find that it all begins in the morning. The extent of order or disarray you find in the first few hours of the day then permeates into the rest of it.
It follows that if you want to change the flavor of your day, then the best tool you have is your morning. It is no secret that mornings set the tone for your whole day. Mornings are the building block and the foundation for the rest of the day. Mornings are sacred because of their remarkable potency.
Flip the switch
So how can we change the tone of our mornings and by extension our whole day which then impacts the flavor of our whole life? There is no one way but you need a Morning Ritual. There are countless iterations of a morning ritual but they all have one thing in common – SelfCare. What fulfills you deeply is the only ritual that is right for you. In all cases, a chunk of time carved out for your well being each morning will flip the switch on your day and on your life. Spending time in solitude, doing the things that you identify as best for your physical and mental well being, are the most potent way to SelfCare and when done first thing in the morning, their value is multiplied manifold.
A combination of SelfCare activities that you perform each morning, preferably in solitude, is what becomes your morning routine.
Making it happen
This is a big and impactful change and will certainly not happen overnight. Be patient with yourself and you will find that in time you will learn to make it a habit. Given the importance of our mornings, this time must be properly planned for and judiciously spent.
Here is an example of my morning ritual (by time):
- 5.55 am alarm goes off
- 6.00 am brush, shower, and dress in lounge clothes (It’s pandemic work from home after all)
- 6.30 am drink lemon tea, Pranayam, and meditation
- 7.00 am Introspective writing and reading the Bhagwad Gita
- 7.30 am cooking or preparing lunch
- 8.00 am yoga or other aerobic exercises
- 8.30 am start my day job
How it all came together
You will see I now have upwards of 2 and 1/2 hours dedicated to mySelf each morning. Now, this didn’t happen overnight. I started with just the lemon tea and I continued to wake up at my usual 7.30 am. In those early days, not seeking black tea but instead drinking a detoxing lemon tea instead was a big win in itself. As I delayed the black tea, in time I found I didn’t need it at all.
After a few days, I added Pranayam by doing it right after my morning tea. To this, I added journaling, reading the scriptures, and cooking/prepping lunch. I am still working on incorporating yoga into my morning ritual. For now, I have started with a 5 minute, legs up the wall yoga routine.
The chaining of desirable habits, one after the other, is called habit stacking.
There are two amazing books I have recently read that talk about habits. See my book blog on two amazing books on habit formation here.
The two books that can radically change your perception of habits and increase your confidence for the creation of the same are here:
Buy it on Amazon The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
Can I do it?
You may be thinking, this all sounds well and good but can I really do it? Even if I grit my teeth and do it for a few days, will I be able to stay on track with it? Or will I eventually drop it just like the many other things I tried and abandoned? You are not alone in your doubts and misgivings. I have two words for you – try it. It may be that you have tried and failed in some areas in the recent past. That diet that you dropped after a couple of days, or the commitment to morning smoothies that you tried for a week and dropped, or the daily walks during your lunch break that you attempted with your coworker and eventually decided you were too busy to go.
Each time you pick up something that you know is good for you but drop it, you give up on yourself. You give up on your potential, you give up on your dreams and you give up on all the bounty that life is waiting to lay at your feet if you would only show up.
Nothing in life is easy. And there is no escaping difficulty in life – you chose whether you want to embrace a self-improvement challenge in a proactive way, or you let go and let chance hit you when and how it wants.
Either way, you had to endure difficulty but in the second case, you got nothing to show for it except a deep sense of failure. On the other hand, the rewards of sticking to a self-improvement challenge are not only abundant, in so many ways they are saviors of your life. In that sense, self-improvement is not a luxury but a necessity. For all the gifts that you are born with, you have a duty to nourish and nurture them and use them for the betterment of this planet and your fellow human beings. In so doing, you will have saved your own soul.
So my answer to you, my friend, is ‘Oh yes you can do it!’. You are capable of so much and you don’t even know it! Just take the first step and the Universe/God/Nature will support you and lead you onward.
Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion. – Rumi
How do I start?
Use habit stacking to get your morning routine going. Start with something small and easy. Do this for 3 weeks and then add another item, that is also small and simple. And keep adding till you feel like all your SelfCare goals are addressed in your morning ritual. Here is an illustration of how you can build your morning ritual. The activities I noted are for illustration only. You can swap them out for activities that are meaningful to you.
- Week 1 to 3 – wake up 15 minutes earlier than usual and drink lemon tea.
- Week 4 to 6- wake up another 15 minutes earlier and add introspective writing
- Week 7 to 9 – wake up another 15 minutes earlier and add a simple yoga routine eg. Feet Against The Wall
- Week 10 to 12 – wake up another 15 minutes earlier and add inspirational reading
If you follow this process, in 3 months you will have carved out a whole hour for yourself before you begin your daily contributions. Stay with this for a few more months before making any big changes. Be gentle with yourself and the process. Insert newer rituals and take away items that no longer serve you one at a time and without disrupting the overall process.
“The day will be what you make it, so rise, like the sun, and burn.”
– William C. Hannan
When you have done this work and invested in improving your morning, your story could look more like this:
A Relaxed Morning
Alarm goes off at an early hour and you start your day with refreshing hydration. You proceed to your morning run with an inspirational audiobook playing while you run. You come back home to a writing session in your journal and when you have cooled down a bit, you wake up your kids and while they get dressed, so do you. You and the kids have already placed your backpacks and items you need for the day in the mudroom the night before so that there is no frantic searching in the morning.
Together with your kids, you chit chat and share stories while you have a pleasant drive to school. The kids wave their goodbyes and you drive to work where you walk into an empty and peaceful office. You plan your activities for the day in your bullet journal and knock out a good piece of work on that project you were working on when the boss walks in and asks about it. You give her a peek at the slides open on your computer and she is impressed. And as she turns to leave, she reminds you to submit your application for that position that you were aspiring to. With a smile and thanks, you return to your work.
Having worked a good chunk before the daily meetings began, you leave work a little early and stop by to pick up your kids from school and take them for ice cream to celebrate their excellent grades before you all head home content. A peaceful afternoon of homework, homecooked dinner, and some time preparing for the next day wind up the evening. you sleep peacefully knowing that the most important project at work got the attention it needed and your family got the quality time too. In addition, by teaching them to plan for the next day and begin a tad early, you are empowering your kids to have a successful day as well. All is well with the world!
Now compared to the rushed mornings of your past, this is a significant upgrade and it needed investment of your time and energy. This investment provides deep rewards and a peace of mind that is priceless. Having once experienced this way of life, you will never go back to the old mindless way of living.
Arise, awake, stop not till the goal is reached.
Looking for more inspiration? Here’s a booklist
Here are some books that deeply inspired me to reclaim and redesign my mornings. There are some below that are on my TBR list and if you are serious about your morning routine, they should on yours too.
Buy it on Amazon The 5 A.M. Miracle: Dominate Your Day Before Breakfast
Buy it on Amazon
Buy it on Amazon
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work